Seeing DoubleBaudelaire's Modernity

Seeing DoubleBaudelaire's Modernity

Francoise Meltzer

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226519883

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

The poet Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867) has been labeled the very icon of modernity, the scribe of the modern city, and an observer of an emerging capitalist culture. This book reconsiders this iconic literary figure and his fraught relationship with the nineteenth-century world by examining the way in which he viewed the increasing dominance of modern life. In doing so, it revises some of our most common assumptions about the unresolved tensions that emerged in Baudelaire's writing during a time of political and social upheaval. The book argues that Baudelaire did not simply describe the contradictions of modernity, but that his work instead embodied and recorded them, leaving them unresolved and often less than comprehensible. Baudelaire's penchant for looking simultaneously backward to an idealized past and forward to an anxious future, while suspending the tension between them, is part of what the book calls his “double vision”—a way of seeing which produces encounters that are doomed to fail, poems that cannot advance, and communications that always seem to falter.