Chapter 1 Prefiguring Modernist Posthumanism: Baudelaire, Rimbaud and the Objectification of the Lyric Self

In: Modernism beyond the Human
Author:
Alessandro Cabiati
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Abstract

That modernist poetry sought a break with the past by means of a specific focus on impersonal literary forms, nonhuman, mechanical, and inorganic subject matter, and through an abandonment of the self-obsessed lyric ‘I’ of Romantic literature is well known. Focusing on the notion of post-Romantic posthumanism, this chapter demonstrates that a similar refusal of both the poetic humanism and the subjective idealism of Romanticism occurred earlier, in the poetry of nineteenth-century authors such as Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867) and Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891). Most notably, it establishes that in both Baudelaire and Rimbaud this refusal resulted from questioning the fundamental beliefs of the humanist philosophic tradition, which stood in sharp contrast with their efforts to bring about a transmutation of human experience through their poetic art. This study argues that the objectification of the lyric self displayed in the works of Baudelaire and Rimbaud is the consequence of a gradual detachment from, on the one hand, the all-too-human interiority of the humanist subject displayed by the Romantics; and on the other hand from the humanist notion of rational self-consciousness and related Cartesian split between mind and body which entails a rejection of the ‘Other’, the physical, sensory, and therefore animalistic aspects of the human being.

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