An Atmospherics of the City: Baudelaire and the Poetics of Noise

An Atmospherics of the City: Baudelaire and the Poetics of Noise

Lazar Fleishman
Haun Saussy
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    An Atmospherics of the City: Baudelaire and the Poetics of Noise
    Book Description:

    What happens to poetic beauty when history turns the poet from one who contemplates natural beauty and the sublime to one who attempts to reconcile the practice of art with the hustle and noise of the city? An Atmospherics of the City traces Charles Baudelaire's evolution from a writer who practices a form of fetishizing aesthetics in which poetry works to beautify the ordinary to one who perceives background noise and disorder-the city's version of a transcendent atmosphere-as evidence of the malign work of a transcendent god of time, history, and ultimate destruction. Analyzing this shift, particularly as evidenced in Tableaux parisiens and Le Spleen de Paris, Ross Chambers shows how Baudelaire's disenchantment with the politics of his day and the coincident rise of overpopulation, poverty, and Haussmann's modernization of Paris influenced the poet's work to conceive a poetry of allegory, one with the power to alert and disalienate its otherwise inattentive reader whose senses have long been dulled by the din of his environment. Providing a completely new and original understanding of both Baudelaire's ethics and his aesthetics, Chambers reveals how the shift from themes of the supernatural in Baudelaire to ones of alienation allowed a new way for him to articulate and for his fellow Parisians to comprehend the rapidly changing conditions of the city and, in the process, to invent a "modern beauty" from the realm of suffering and the abject as they embodied forms of urban experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6587-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Part I: Fetish and the Everyday
    • ONE From the Sublime to the Subliminal: Fetish Aesthetics
      (pp. 1-24)

      How to define an atmosphere? The word has a specific primary sense, of course, and a scientific definition. It is the invisible layer of breathable air that swathes the planet, sustaining life and exerting the variable pressure we register as weather. Weather is not irrelevant to a poetics of urban atmosphere. But to speak of the atmospherics of a city is also to activate a derived sense of the word, one in whichatmosphererefers to the intuition one has, or rather the subliminal awareness, of a certain dimension of particularity, otherness, or strangeness that attaches to certain objects, places,...

    • TWO The Magic Windowpane
      (pp. 25-50)

      If, as I have suggested, Baudelaire is at the cusp of a transition in aesthetic history from a literature of the communicable—whose condition is the denegation of noise—to a literature of unlimited readability, grounded in a confrontation with noise as the poetic other, our starting point lies in the fetish aesthetics of early to mid-nineteenth-century France, under the aegis of a theory of “ideal beauty.” If the Romantic sublime functioned as what M. H. Abrams baptized “natural supernaturalism”—an aesthetics turned by definition toward the natural environment and implying wonderment or awe as its most appropriate response—fetish...

  5. Part II: Allegory, History, and the Weather of Time
    • THREE Fetishism Becomes Allegory
      (pp. 53-88)

      Artificial supernaturalism, as an aesthetics of the ideal, entails, as we’ve seen, a denial of time. For that reason, it tends to cultivate a fetishism of near-simultaneity—of proximity in “Je n’ai pas oublié …” and of the sun’s “traits redoublés” in “Le Soleil”— the effect of which is to efface distance and difference, including spatial differences (country/city; city/suburban village) but also the metaphysical difference separating the ordinary and the everyday from the remote ideal.

      Such an effect ofrapprochementdepends, in turn, on poetic practices of indifferentiation for which the model is rhyme, practices whose effect is to produce...

    • FOUR Daylight Specters: Allegory and the Weather of Time
      (pp. 89-118)

      The chiasmic figure of allegory plunges, statue-like, into the darkest night of time, as we have seen. But it can also represent—without contradiction—a spatial configuration: that of a world conceived as anX-like site of conjunction, opening in one direction onto the everyday but stretching in the other toward infinity. Disalienating encounters can thus occur, in everyday life, with figures of a spatial beyond that is no less sinister in its purposes than the temporal abyss.

      Such figures are phantom-like; but like statues they make their appearance in a daytime context from which they derive a particular strangeness:...

  6. Part III: Ironic Atmospherics and the Urban Diary
    • FIVE Ironic Encounter: The Poetics of Anonymity
      (pp. 121-145)

      If allegory is a figure of readability, offering a glimpse of transcendence—albeit a transcendence ofle Mal—what are we to make of the clear blue sky that the eponymous swan identifies as the source of its torments? Its cloudless purity, which would seem to suggest the absence of noise, also signifies unambiguously that the answer to the swan’s question: “Eau, quand donc pleuvras-tu? Quand tonneras-tu, foudre?” (line 23) is something like: not in the foreseeable future. If there is an atmospherics of readability here, we must identify an atmospherics of fine, clear weather.

      For the poetics ofle...

    • SIX “La forme d’une ville”: The Urban Diary
      (pp. 146-164)

      The Baudelairean thematics of encounter (or ofcroisement) does not exhaust the poet’s sense of the secret presence, in modern life, ofle Mal: time, disorder, noise, and, in short, the Enemy. The history that manifests itself in events, be they major or minor events, has a much less spectacular double in the secret, but similarly preteritional, passage of time that underlies the apparent stability of what is now called the everyday. For what feels like an enduring present is actually the chaotic becoming-future of the past and becoming-past of the future that defines a reality of incessant change, perpetual...

    (pp. 165-172)
  8. NOTES
    (pp. 173-180)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 181-188)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 189-190)