(B2) Figures of Distinction. Authorship in Post-Revolutionary France

Poets and their works are traditionally assigned a specific status in a public social space. Under the influence of the muses or of divine inspiration, the poet partakes in the dignity and authority of superhuman values; in its claim to bring about memoria, the work positions itself in an eternal permanence deprived of the hic et nunc of political and social affairs, thus also ennobling the author. Pictures and characters of the author as originator as they appear in literary texts, in illustrating miniatures, on title pages or in painting and statuary arbitrate between the literary work and the social world.

The recourse to religious imaginative patterns and the setting within the sociopolitical space are among the formative patterns of the visual and thematic representation of the author. Dante is a striking example for medieval literature: As an author, Dante places himself in direct allegiance to the inspiring Amor principle. He derives his speech from a divine root, thus at the same time claiming over the old generation of poets a new lyric poetry for himself, the dolce stil nuovo. Just as the concept of the figure of Beatrice as saviour (in Vita nuova) or as the exposed position of a female audience, this derivation is opposed to the theological scholastic devaluation of secular literature and demands that the theological and philosophical theories of the representation of the divine in images and texts be dealt with. Likewise intentionally, a sociopolitically defined hierarchy is contested if the spokesmen of medieval lyric poetry assign themselves to an intellectually substantiated “gentilezza” (aristocracy) which contradicts the aristocracy by birthright and the supremacy of its values and norms.

The project will deal with the transformations of authorship in the modern age, that is, in 19th-century literature in France, taking literary and historical traditions into consideration through a reception historical approach. The project aims to capture – after the restructuring of the public in the Enlightenment and the high social prestige of the literary author as homme illustre (cf. Jean-Claude Bonnet) – the particular claim to an author’s mask in the conflicting interests of the social public and the superior setting of the author (in his rhetoric masquerading, too). The project is designed to distinguish the current state of research from authorship questions. In the structuralist phase of science and in the “nouvelle théorie” since the 1960s, biographical approaches were called into question in favour of a non-mimetic relationship of the living environment and language. From the point of view of science history, it must be emphasised that the biographical and literary scientific approaches draw on Sainte-Beuve and his principle of “l’homme et l’oeuvre”. It should also be stressed, however, that the theoretical approaches were derived from 19th-century French literature: As regards the disappearance of the authority of the narrator, for example, Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault refer to Flaubert’s fiction or to Mallarmé’s and Paul Valéry’s poetry to cut the reference to an intrapsychic author’s consciousness . Marcel Proust, in his critical examination of Sainte-Bauve, opposed the latter’s construct of a genuine link between the social and the creative “I” with an autonomous intellectual activity. Consequently, 19th-century literature with its concepts of authorship played a central role in the formation of the said theories.

When attempting to classify the authors’ positions of the post-revolutionary romance field, enunciator and prophet characters (cf. Alfred de Vigny, Victor Hugo) who, in religious self-representation, account for a political mission determined by progress emerge on the one hand. On the other hand, authors’ characters of loneliness and exclusion appear, describing their social withdrawal in religious terms and images and distinguishing themselves from Christian model characters in a, for example, nuanced way (cf. the examples of Delacroix’ Tasso or even the painting Le Christ au jardin des Oliviers, the topos of which is also thematically elaborated in poems by A. de Vigny, Gérard de Nerval and Charles Baudelaire). In literature after 1850, namely in Gustave Flaubert and Charles Baudelaire, the religiously exaggerated characters of withdrawal are unfolded again and stripped of their old semantics. The author appears as a modern saint, the role of which type Flaubert assumes through the role of St. Polycarp in his Correspondance, or stages as St. Anthony in La tentation de saint Antoine, producing visions and interpretations of religious history, here at least partially blending that type with the character of the author. In La Légende de Saint Julien l’hospitalier (in Trois contes), the character of the author presents himself as a hermeneut of salvific history. Baudelaire designs the dandy, submitting himself in a pseudo-religious ritual, as an interpretation character of the author distinguishing himself from society, and the Christomorph character of the juggler Saltimbanque, who stands on the fringes of society. The two characters situate themselves outside of normative social forms of communication and understanding. Baudelaire reflects upon the character of the author in his loss of christological symbols and upon the ideological violation of these insignia in the prose poem “Perte d’auréole” (Spleen de Paris). In the context of civil society and its politicisation and sentimentalisation of arts, it is to be shown how 19th-century authors stage religious forms while not developing a religiously structured or overtly sociopolitical space but establishing aesthetic’s own space , instead. In contrast to a simply biographical coverage and the stereotypically physiognomic images of authorship that circulate as sentimental projections or were designed as religious prophetic types, those new characters of outsiderdom will be described and analysed – while also taking recourse to the classic representation and the central role of the hero – that indicate a fundamental loss of representation of art and authorship in public space: The dandy, the clown and Saltimbanque or the modern urban character of the author under the mask of anonymity belong to this group. The link between literature and art, that is, an analysis of the representation of literary men, authors and poets in paintings, engravings and caricatures (Delacroix, Manet, Daumier) , is of particular interest when studying the 19th century. The representation of female authors will also be taken into consideration.

A subproject deals with the character of the author as translator, particularly with Charles Baudelaire as Edgar Allan Poe’s unreliable translator. The poet and literary critic Charles Baudelaire provided his full, now canonical translation with a series of literary critical texts which posthumously celebrate the American author and present Poe to the literary public. The specific relationship of the stereotypical reception of the author as a scandalous marginal figure of the public and the concept of a new mental space of the invisible −lying beyond the suffocating atmosphere of a narcissistic and materialistic continent, in the world of the imagination − will be emphasised in the context of the 19th-century images of the author and of Baudelaire’s performance as translator. The guiding question in this will be how Baudelaire exploits the panegyrical tradition in order to inscribe into the translations a structure of double authorship which, in the form of an implicit literary criticism, makes appropriate, knowledge-oriented discussion about Poe’s literary achievement possible in the first place.