As the status of poetry became less and less certain over the course of the nineteenth century, poets such as Baudelaire and Mallarmé began to explore ways to ensure that poetry would not be overtaken by music in the hierarchy of the arts. Helen Abbott examines the verse and prose poetry of these two important poets, together with their critical writings, to address how their attitudes towards the performance practice of poetry influenced the future of both poetry and music. Central to her analysis is the issue of 'voice', a term that remains elusive in spite of its broad application. Acknowledging that voice can be physical, textual and symbolic, Abbott explores the meaning of voice in terms of four categories: (1) rhetoric, specifically the rules governing the deployment of voice in poetry; (2) the human body and its effect on how voice is used in poetry; (3) exchange, that is, the way voices either interact or fail to interact; and (4) music, specifically the question of whether poetry should be sung. Abbott shows how Baudelaire and Mallarmé exploit the complexity and instability of the notion of voice to propose a new aesthetic that situates poetry between conversation and music. Voice thus becomes an important process of interaction and exchange rather than something stable or static; the implications of this for Baudelaire and Mallarmé are profoundly significant, since it maps out the possible future of poetry.
Helen Abbott is Senior Lecturer in French in the School of Languages and Cultures, University of Sheffield, UK
'Helen Abbott brings a musical sensitivity to her analysis of what happens when we read a poem. Showing how Baudelaire and Mallarmé departed from accepted poetic conventions to create the subtlest of exchanges between poet and reader, she reveals the workings of a fascinatingly complex interplay of sounds and voices in their poetry. Between Baudelaire and Mallarmé challenges the reader to think in new ways about the extraordinary process of poetic creation and reception.' Anne Green, King's College London, UK 'This perceptive and elegantly written book explores the elusive notion of "voice" in poetry, and comes at the question with a deep knowledge of both its literary and its musical dimensions. Abbott's close readings of Baudelaire and Mallarmé are exemplary, and her book is as important for the distinctions and dissociations it makes between the two as for the connections it pursues.' Patrick McGuinness, St Anne's College, University of Oxford, UK ’Abbott succeeds in demonstrating the mystery and complexity of the poetry she analyzes, and is careful to explore the notion of voice without reducing its ambiguity or elusiveness as a category. ... Abbott invites the reader to enter into greater appreciation of poetry as a phenomenon that will always disrupt and complicate our attempts to gain a full analytical grasp on its complexity.’ H-France 'Supplied with a number of topic-specific tables, a wide ranging bibliography and a very helpful index, the book is a pleasure to read and is to be greatly recommended to anyone working on or interested in nineteenth-century French poetry and culture.' Journal of European Studies '... worthy of attention in the field of nineteenth-century French poetics and poetry.' Nineteenth-Century French Studies '... [an] innovative and wide-ranging methodology. ... Abbott's study, though a welcome addition to Baudelaire and Mallarmé criticism, is perhaps even more valuable as a blueprint for a promising new type of interdis