Lautréamont, Subject to Interpretation


Since the 1874 publication in Belgium of the first posthumous edition of Les Chants de Maldoror, the enigmatic work has served as an inspiration for the poetic and creative liberation of countless twentieth-century writers and artists. Little is known, however, about the book’s elusive French author Isidore Ducasse, known as le comte de Lautréamont, and his abbreviated life (1846-1870). In the absence of an original manuscript, Lautréamont’s readers have over time altered his poetry for personal, political, and aesthetic reasons. Symbolist literary journals, first editions of his work, surrealist illustrated editions, and the prestigious Pléiade edition (1970 and 2009), reveal how varying editions of Lautréamont’s work have in turn contributed to his legend. In Lautréamont, Subject to Interpretation, Andrea S. Thomas carefully explores these editions of this so-called poète maudit to show how impassioned readers can shape not only the reception of works, but the works themselves.

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"Thomas has produced an engagingly written, ground-breaking work that is bolstered by an apposite selection of attractive illustrations. It raises fundamental questions about the complex power dynamics between writers, artists, composers, editors, and publishers in the production of textual authority and is likely to remain for some time as the “point de référence” for any scholar seeking to understand the history of Lautréamont reception."
- Damian Catani, Birkbeck University of London
List of Illustrations
Lautréamontage: Imaginary Portraits of Lautréamont

I – Fin de Siècle
Chapter 1: Outsiders at the Fin de Siècle
Chapter 2: Perish then Publish: Partial Truth in the 1890 Edition of Maldoror

II – Surrealism
Chapter 3: Investing in Lautréamont, 1920
Chapter 4: The Edition as Exhibition: A Surrealist Retrospective, 1938

III – Post-Structuralism
Chapter 5: Lautréamont in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade
Chapter 6: Lautréamont Reincarnated

Conclusion: John Cage and the Chants de Maldoror: Pulvérisés par l’assistance même

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