This is the central site for a long-term project to research, examine, and respond to the radical collective of writers, theorists, architects, and visual artists who operated in Paris between 1829 and 1835 under the names of the Jeunes France & the Bouzingo, and through them to build a critical understanding of French Romanticist subculture through the historical lens of a continuing politically vigilant Anglophone avant-garde.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Feb. Update, #1

Progress has been slow but steady so far this Winter, as everyone involved with the project--myself not least of all--has been busy with other projects and duties. Nonetheless a number of new leads and areas of investigation have been opened, and now merely await the time to be followed up. I'm heavily involved with organising the Marginal Arts Festival here in Roanoke, VA, which occurs in less than a month, so nearly all of my energies will be there until then. It's likely to be early Spring before I'm able to resume heavy research or writing, though I'll try to keep updating the site in the meantime with what I do uncover.

Though I'm not adding much to the site itself, lots of juicy tidbits have turned up. Right now I'm just posting a few of the juicier ones, I'll try to get the rest up in the next week or two, we'll see what happens.

So here are some of the promising developments from the last couple months:
  • A French-language monograph written by Aristide Marie on Louis Boulanger, the Bouzingo painter & printmaker, has recently come into my possession. This is quite a windfall! A large number of black and white images and a solid amount of text I am unable to properly read. It's listed on Amazon but no copies have been available there for over a year; I managed to find a copy available on ebay. I am gradually scanning in Boulanger images and adding them to his online portfolio; there are already several new ones in there now. It's easy to understand his popularity in Frenetic & Gothic circles, looking at some of these grisly beauties. This project has also made me tolerably competent in scanning French texts for information, though if I slow down to try translating specific words and phrases my comprehension collapses; so I'm slowly semi-reading the texts and eventually will be able to correct and expand the biography of Boulanger that has already been posted on this site. There are also a number of poems, many of which are dedicated to Boulanger by his friends and some of which I suspect are written by him, but I need to examine French articles more carefully to be able to figure this out. Either way, these will one day end up being translated, or at least posted.
  • In addition to this book, I have found online a review of Bouchardy's print "Fire from Heaven"(above), an illustration of Hugo's poem on the destruction of Sodom. The picture was produced in 1831, amidst the tumultuous convulsions of the Bouzingo's condensation as the most radical manifestation of Romanticist subculture. This enthusiastic review is from the same 1832 issue of the Revue des Deux-Mondes as the bitingly antagonistic review of Borel's Rhapsodies (possibly by the same person--reviewers are anonymous), and as such indicates that the split between the (newly) mainstream Romanticism of the Cénacle group and the evolving avant-garde Romanticism of the Jeunes-France was not universal. It seems that while Borel had forcefully placed himself on the Cénacle's shit-list, his friend Boulanger maintained more than cordial relations with them; indeed he remained one of Victor Hugo's closest friends throughout his life. The reviewer praises Boulanger's intellectual approach to the plastic arts, noting the immense amount of historical and anthropological research that Boulanger had conducted for this piece; he also deplores Boulanger's exclusion from the recent Salon, where his painting had been rejected on political grounds by the new July Monarchy. This and the reference to Boulanger's Romanticist classic The Torture of Mazeppa reaffirm his status at this time as a standard-bearer of Romanticist painting. Other comments provide a glimpse into the relationship of Romanticism to mass culture, as the reviewer anticipates copies of the print posted in the homes of Romantic supporters throughout France.
  • Another example of the interaction of the Jeunes-France with mass culture, particularly through lithography, is also another recent acquisition: I am now the proud owner of a print of Célestin Nanteuil's The Cavern, reproduced in a British newspaper, the date of which I cannot learn since the print had already been cut out but which, from printing on the back, I estimate is from the mid-1850s to early 1860s. I've read enough 18th and early 19th Century gothic novels to recognise the subject as the hidden den of a robber band, such as those described by Radcliffe, Lewis, Maturin, Teuthold, etc. etc. So here again is a tantalizing indication of the Jeune-France's relationship with popular gothic/frenetic subculture.

  • Gleb Kolomiets has begun taking a look at Russian Romanticism to discover if there are historical secrets there analogous to what is being uncovered regarding the Bouzingo. He has also translated a short essay on the Bouzingo from the Russian, which I'll try to post in a week or two along with some very interesting comments that Kolomiets has made about the unique historiographic challenges that he's meeting in Russia as he tries to dig beneath the official interpretation and canon; in certain ways the challenges are vastly different than what we face here in the West, in other ways surprisingly similar. Through the Mycelium publishing project that he has initiated, Kolomiets has also launched a series of books reprinting works by 'The Forgotten Avant-Garde' from throughout history, the first book being visual poetry, diagrammes, etc. by the Renaissance alchemist Robert Fludd. This project too is closely akin to the underlying historiographic concerns of the Bouzingo project (also just published by mycelium is a Russian translation of my own related essay, Toward a Radical Historiography: Creative Sociality and Traditions of Dissent.)

Quick Update on the status of translation/material gathering for the initial Bouzingo chapbook:
  • Finished Translations (including older public domain translations) for: Borel (Essay), O'Neddy (Essay), Gautier (Sonnet & Essay), Nerval (Short Poem), Bertrand (Prose Poems); Translations in Progress for: Borel (Poem), O'Neddy (Poem), Nerval (Poem); Still need to start translations for: Bouchardy (act of a Play), MacKeat/Maquet (Poem or chapter or act, unless we use his unaknowledged collaborations with Dumas), Brot (Poem).
  • We have images for: Thom/Thomas, Boulanger, both of the Devérias, Duseigneur, Nanteuil. I've found no images or architecture yet by: Clopet, Vabre, or Vigneron. I have a feeling I'm unlikely to find any, so they may be represented simply by bios and remembrances by their friends.
  • Thus: We're probably a bit less than 2/3 through the translation for this first volume, while taking the visual work we're somewhat more than that.
  • This is likely to take awhile yet. What may be feasible before then is an annotated collection of French Romanticist manifestos. This would be mostly Prefaces (the favoured format of Romantic manifestos), and would include those by the Jeunes-France (Borel, O'Neddy, Bertrand, Gautier) among those by other key Romanticists such as Hugo (a copy of his Preface to Cromwell was mounted as a Holy Relic on the wall of the Bouzingos' Tartar-Camp commune), Berlioz, Dumas, Stendhal, Delacroix, de Staël, Mussett, Sand, and others that are already in the public domain (I'd love to find some Nodier, Saint-Beuve, and Vigny...) but never collected together in order to provide a comprehensive picture of Romanticist Theory between 1820 and 1840. This could help all of us to get a better handle on the general intellectual context within which the group was operating.
And that's it for this post--hopefully I'll have more up soon.