Cover image for Performance in the Texts of Mallarmé: The Passage from Art to Ritual By Mary Lewis Shaw

Performance in the Texts of Mallarmé

The Passage from Art to Ritual

Mary Lewis Shaw

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$35.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-02669-5

288 pages
6" × 9"
1992

Performance in the Texts of Mallarmé

The Passage from Art to Ritual

Mary Lewis Shaw

“A highly original contribution to Mallarmé studies. With an impressive command of primary and secondary sources, Mary Shaw demonstrates how musical and theatrical aims underpinned Mallarmé’s poetic endeavor throughout his career, and how these aims were central to the conception of his last, unfinished work, Le Livre.”

 

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Performance in the Texts of Mallarmé offers a new theory of performance in the poetic and critical texts of Stephane Mallarmé, a theory challenging the prevailing interpretation of his work as epitomizing literary purism and art for art's sake.

Following an analytical presentation of the concepts of ritual and performance generally applied, Mary Shaw shows that Mallarmé perceived music, dance, and theater as ideal languages of the body and therefore as ideal forms of ritual through which to supplement and celebrate poetic texts. She focuses on previously unexplored references to supplementary, extratextual performances in four of Mallarmé's major poetic texts—Herodiade, L'après-midi d'un faune, Igitur, and Un coup de des—revealing the consistent formal expression of his original conception of literature's relationship to the performing arts.

Shaw then discusses Mallarmé's monumental project, Le Livre, a metaphysical book designed to be performed in a series of ritual celebrations. She analyzes and describes the intrinsic structure and contents of this unfinished work as the fullest realization of the text-performance relationship elaborated throughout Mallarmé's corpus. Shaw offers Le Livre as a prototype of avant-garde performance, drawing important parallels between Mallarmé's literary experimentation and crucial developments in twentieth-century arts.

“A highly original contribution to Mallarmé studies. With an impressive command of primary and secondary sources, Mary Shaw demonstrates how musical and theatrical aims underpinned Mallarmé’s poetic endeavor throughout his career, and how these aims were central to the conception of his last, unfinished work, Le Livre.”
“Shaw’s study goes a long way toward a balanced and reasoned understanding of what this monumental poet was trying to do: namely, redefine literature’s function—a social project whose consequences are still reverberating in the art forms of today.”

Mary Lewis Shaw is Assistant Professor of French at Rutgers University.

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