Pickering, Robert
January 1992
Modern Language Review;Jan1992, Vol. 87 Issue 1, p56
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
This article examines the relationship between writing and page with reference to Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Valéry, three major literary figures of the late 19th century for whom an active interface between writing and the page assumes particular significance. The works chosen to illustrate this introduction to the interface of writing and the page are consciously selective, and span both published material (Rimbaud, Illuminations; Mallarmé, Un Coup de dés; Valéry, Charmes and unpublished (Valéry's Cahiers). The designation of writing and the page itself needs qualification, since in its rather opaque complementarity it neglects the dynamics of its basic interaction. There are multiple connotations which can render more difficult the reader's approach. In writing the page, where the consubstantiality of the page and of the act of writing are virtually inseparable: a metaphorical conjunction which has nevertheless become an unthinking reflex in writing a page. In the work Illuminations, the plasticity and synaesthetic immediacy in which Rimbaud's conception of the illumination is embedded are well documented. What is less extensively treated, however, is the way in which the texts react with their surroundings, which in the first and most obvious instance are the pages on which they are written. The complementary role of the page itself to the writing in the Illuminations is perhaps the most evident in those instances where the poetic vision apparently founders on a sense of lack of bereftness in creative capabilities, which the blankness of the page can eloquently offset or prolong. Meanwhile, the play of perspective which inhabits the terms of the framework of dynamic ingress and egress is perhaps the most visually immediate in that archetypal expression of poetic modernity which is Mallarmés Un Coup de dés.


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