Quebec Studies

Going for Baroque in the Twentieth Century: From Desnos to Brossard

Quebec Studies (2001), 31, (1), 12–23.

Abstract

12 Going for Baroque in the Twentieth Century: From Desnos to Brassard By Katharine Conley Dartmouth College J'escoute à demy transporté Le bruit des ailes du Silence. —Saint-Amant, "Le Contemplateur" (1628) The twentieth century witnessed a resurfacing of the baroque. Less a time period than "un levier méthodologique," according to sociologist Michel Maffesoli, the baroque designates a sensibility focused on the material world (1990, 154).J Etymologically, baroque comes from the Portuguese word for "irregular pearl," and it is a term used to designate a style of writing, art, and architecture created between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries and characterized by great liberty of form and fantasy. In the twentieth century the baroque re-emerges both in surrealism and postmodernism. For what Maffesoli calls "un Barocchus post-modernus" is arguably equivalent to an earlier twentieth century baroque, the surrealist baroque, but with a greater emphasis on the body, emblematized by the natural and irregular form of the "baroque pearl" (154).2 Both the surrealist and the postmodern baroque share fundamental characteristics with the sixteenth and seventeenth century baroque in Italy and France. These include a tendency towards reversibility and short-circuited time, and a propensity for doubling. The baroque penchant for reversibility, which Maffesoli describes as "justement ce type de réversibilité que l'on retrouve dans la postmodernité," also results in a short-circuiting of linear time: "Il y a dans l'artifice et le fantastique baroques un immanence évident dont la vertu essentielle est d'arrêter la course du temps" (167,157).3 The connection between the historical baroque and surrealism may be intuited in a statement by Gérard Genette in "L'Univers réversible," an essay on the French baroque poet Saint-Amant: "Une dialectique perplexe de la veille et du rêve, du réel et de l'imaginaire, de la sagesse et de la folie, traverse toute la pensée baroque" (18). Furthermore, the short-circuiting of time which results from baroque reversibility highlights the suspended moment of reversal—a moment in which time becomes immobilized. Genette describes such a moment—a consequence of reversibility and inherent to the baroque imagination—as provoking "une sorte de vertige de l'infini" (1966,17).4 With Baroque d'aube (1995), Nicole Brossard embraces aspects of the baroque that, in the twentieth century, were previously explored by the surrealists, particularly Robert Desnos. But whereas Desnos's surrealist baroque highlights reversibility, timing, and doubling, Brossard's postmodern baroque goes beyond these surrealist baroque qualities by focusing more on materiality in the form of embodiment. Brossard re-visions aspects of Desnos's surrealist baroque in three-dimensional shapes, from the geometric form of a pair of spiral earrings to the corporeal form of a woman's body. Her novel illustrates how, in her hands, the surrealist baroque has become not only postmodern, but also embodied and sexualized "au féminin." Nicole Brossard's Baroque d'aube is a novel that includes indirect references to the French baroque, that goes for baroque in the loops and short-circuits of her Québec Studies, Volume 31, Spring/Summer 2001

Access Token
£25.00

Aragon, Louis. Le Paysan de Paris. Paris: Gallimard, 1926. Le Paysan de Paris Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland. "Arcimboldo ou Rhétoriqueur et Magicien." L'Obvie et L'Obtus. Paris: Seuil, 1982. 122-38. L'Obvie et L'Obtus 122 38 Google Scholar

Breton, André. Entretiens. Paris: Gallimard, 1969. Entretiens Google Scholar

Breton, André. Œuvres complètes. t. 1. Paris: Gallimard-Pléiade, 1988. Œuvres complètes 1 Google Scholar

Brossard, Nicole, Baroque d'aube. Montréal: Editions de l'Hexagone, 1995. Baroque d'aube Google Scholar

Brossard, Nicole, Baroque d'aube. and Daphne Marlatt. "Only a Body to Measure Reality By: Writing the In-Between." Journal of Commonwealth Literature 31.2 (1996): 5-17. Baroque d'aube. and Daphne Marlatt. "Only a Body to Measure Reality By: Writing the In-Between Journal of Commonwealth Literature 31 5 17 Google Scholar

Buci-Glucksmann, Christine. La Raison baroque: De Baudelaire à Benjamin. Paris: Galilée, 1984. La Raison baroque: De Baudelaire à Benjamin Google Scholar

Caws, Mary Ann. The Surrealist Look. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997. The Surrealist Look Google Scholar

Conley, Katharine. Automatic Woman: The Representation of Woman in Surrealism. Lincoln: U Nebraska P, 1996. Automatic Woman: The Representation of Woman in Surrealism Google Scholar

Conley, Katharine. "The Spiral as Möbius Strip: Inside/Outside Le Désert mauve." Québec Studies 18 (1994): 149-58. The Spiral as Möbius Strip: Inside/Outside Le Désert mauve Québec Studies 18 149 58 Google Scholar

Conley, Katharine. "The Woman in the Bottle of Robert Desnos's Surrealist Dreams." French Forum 16.2 (1991): 199-208. The Woman in the Bottle of Robert Desnos's Surrealist Dreams French Forum 16 199 208 Google Scholar

Deleuze, Gilles. Le Pli: Leibniz et le Baroque. Paris: Minuit, 1988. Le Pli: Leibniz et le Baroque Google Scholar

Desnos, Robert. "Confession d'un enfant du siècle." La Révolution surréaliste 2.6 (1926): 18-20. Confession d'un enfant du siècle La Révolution surréaliste 2 18 20 Google Scholar

Desnos, Robert. Corps et biens. Paris: Gallimard, 1930. Corps et biens Google Scholar

Desnos, Robert. La Liberté ou l'amour! Paris: Gallimard, 1962. La Liberté ou l'amour! Google Scholar

Desnos, Robert. Nouvelles Hébrides. Ed. Marie-Claire Dumas. Paris: Gallimard, 1978. Nouvelles Hébrides Google Scholar

Desnos, Youki. Les Confidences de Youki. Paris: Fayard, 1957. Les Confidences de Youki Google Scholar

Genette, Gérard. "L'Univers réversible." Figures I. Paris: Seuil, 1966. 9-20. Figures I 9 20 Google Scholar

Guerlac, Suzanne. Literary Polemics: Bataille, Sartre, Valéry, Breton. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1997. Literary Polemics: Bataille, Sartre, Valéry, Breton Google Scholar

Havercroft, Barbara. "Hétérogénéité énonciative et renouvellement du genre: le Journal intime de Nicole Brossard." Voix et images 64 (1996): 22-37. Hétérogénéité énonciative et renouvellement du genre: le Journal intime de Nicole Brossard Voix et images 64 22 37 Google Scholar

Howarth, W. D. "French Literature from 1600 to 1750." France: A Companion to French Studies. Ed. D. G. Charlton. London: Metheun, 1972. 321-65. France: A Companion to French Studies 321 65 Google Scholar

Huffer, Lynne. Maternal Pasts, Feminist Futures. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998. Maternal Pasts, Feminist Futures Google Scholar

Labé, Louise. Œuvres complètes. Paris: Flammarion, 1986. Œuvres complètes Google Scholar

Lacan, Jacques. "Du Baroque." Encore: Le Séminaire de Jacques Lacan. Paris: Seuil, 1975. 95-105. Encore: Le Séminaire de Jacques Lacan 95 105 Google Scholar

Maffesoli, Michel. Au Creux des apparences: Pour une éthique de l'esthétique. Paris: Plon, 1990. Au Creux des apparences: Pour une éthique de l'esthétique Google Scholar

Martin, John Rupert. Baroque. New York: Harper & Row, 1977. Baroque Google Scholar

Parker, Alice. Liminal Visions of Nicole Brossard. New York: Peter Lang, 1998. Liminal Visions of Nicole Brossard Google Scholar

Rousset, Jean. La Littérature de l'âge baroque. Paris: Corti, 1954. La Littérature de l'âge baroque Google Scholar

Saint-Amant. "Le Contemplateur." Œuvres 1. Paris: Librairie Marcel Didier, 1971. 49-69. Œuvres 1 49 69 Google Scholar

Sypher, Wylie. Four Stages of Renaissance Style. New York: Doubleday, 1955. Four Stages of Renaissance Style Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Conley, Katharine