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French Ecocriticism

From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century


Edited By Daniel A. Finch-Race and Stephanie Posthumus

This book expounds fruitful ways of analysing matters of ecology, environments, nature, and the non-human world in a broad spectrum of material in French. Scholars from Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States examine the work of writers and thinkers including Michel de Montaigne, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Arthur Rimbaud, Marguerite Yourcenar, Gilbert Simondon, Michel Serres, Michel Houellebecq, and Éric Chevillard. The diverse approaches in the volume signal a common desire to bring together form and content, politics and aesthetics, theory and practice, under the aegis of the environmental humanities.

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Ecopoetic Adventures in Rimbaud’s ‘Sensation’ and ‘Ma Bohème’ (Daniel A. Finch-Race)


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Daniel A. Finch-Race

Ecopoetic Adventures in Rimbaud’s ‘Sensation’ and ‘Ma Bohème’

Abstract: The profusion of ecological matters in Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Sensation’ and ‘Ma Bohème’ of 1870 draws attention to the peculiar relationship between mankind and its surroundings in the later years of the nineteenth century. The feeling of fulfilment ensuing from the teenage poet’s communion with nature in a space beyond the confines of urban industry is associated with versificatory particularities that are suggestive of personal and stylistic evolution based on a distinctive mode of enmeshment in the non-human world. Rimbaud’s rendering of a world on the cusp of the metropolis entails a quest for personal independence outside traditional constraints. The visual and tactile evocations of the narrator’s surroundings and corporeal circumstances are complemented by auditory metaphors that emblematise a transition beyond Hugolian lyricism. The present chapter contends that the ecological framework of the poems provides an insight into the peculiar identity of the countryside in the era of industrialisation and Haussmannisation. It is conjectured that the distinctive versification of the poems (several caesurae are overridden; there are multiple instances of enjambement and unsettled rhythms; rhyming richness markedly varies from stanza to stanza) embodies increasingly significant correspondences between environmental circumstances and cultural production at a moment of accelerated change in ecological and sociocultural conditions in France.

The attentiveness to environmental elements in Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Sensation’ and ‘Ma Bohème’ of 1870 contrasts with mid-century accounts lauding the scientific...

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