Although the history of nineteenth-century poetry is often seen as one of growing alienation between writer and public, it would be one-sided to ignore the effort made by Baudelaire to speak of—and to—a fragmented urban community. Far from being merely subjective in orientation, nineteenth-century French poetry is often characterized by the desire to overcome subjectivity, to move from the isolated self to a more inclusive experience and audience. This orientation is evident in the centrally important conception of imaginative love as the agent of reunion between subjective and objective perspectives of human experience. It is nowhere more evident, however, than in Baudelaire's fascination with the poetic representation of the city and the street people's attempt to recuperate an inter-subjective sympathy for others after suffering a loss of identity and community in a post-Haussmannian Paris. I will show how the city poetry reveals Baudelaire's quest for community, his difficulties of coming to grips with the chaotic and oppressive conditions of Paris, and the ways in which his poetry manages to accept the modern city as a site for a fragmented community of down and out people in the city street, an acceptance that involves changed conceptions of love, poetry, and community and presupposes the sufferings of the modern subject in a radically degraded street setting.
"Identification with Urban Marginals: The Representation of the Subject in Baudelaire’s Late Poetry,"
University of Dayton Review: Vol. 18:
3, Article 7.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udr/vol18/iss3/7