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, August 29, 2015

Newly Available Images by Célestin Nanteuil, and a Short Story by Théophile Gautier

Another recently-scanned book IN ENGLISH (in the public domain) which does double-duty: a translated story by Jeunes-France / Bouzingo co-founder Théophile Gautier, which describes the avant-garde micro-culture of Medievalist Romanticism, mostly modeled on his close friend and other Bouzingo co-founder, Célestin Nanteuil, whose etchings and book illuminations I posted earlier this week.…/elias%20wildmanstadius.…

I'll break this into separate .jpegs and make them available when I find the time.

"Elias Wildmanstadius" was first published in the 1832 Annales Romantiques (a copy of which is in the Revenants Archive), and collected the following year in Gautier's anthology of humorous short stories about life in the avant-garde, "The Jeunes-France: Taunting Tales" ("romans goguenards"). This comes from my incomplete set of the 1900 "Collected Works" of Gautier in translation, which contains only three of those stories; the Revenants archive contains an annotated copy of Gautier (not including this piece) owned by a student attending classes taught by the translator.

The main character would have been recognised by anyone in the Paris Romanticist community as Célestin Nanteuil.

Nanteuil was not only the leading book illustrator of the avant-garde, but also one of its principal organisers, and was central to recruiting and directing the rowdy Romanticist "clacques" that showed up to out-shout and potentially battle with Classicists at every Romanticist play into the 1840s (a combative aspect to his personality not reflected in Gautier's story). He was a leader of the Medievalist Romantics, who deployed a kind of radical nostalgia as a way to rethink the modernity for which--as Romantics and avant-gardists--they strove. For two centuries, French culture had entirely rejected and denigrated medieval culture as a transitional, imperfect, chaotic, irrational society whose productions and forms lacked any kind of value, instead presenting modern rationality in supposedly revived (though mostly invented) 'rules' and proportions of Classical Greek and Roman derivation. So to celebrate the medieval or "middle-ages" (the term at this time included much of what we now call the Renaissance) was to declare yourself an enemy of the status quo (not unlike a reclaiming of early 19th century cultures in the 21st…).

As this story describes, the Medievalists dressed in medieval clothing, adopted pseudonyms with obsolete forms of their names, and trained themselves to speak in outmoded vocabulary and grammatical forms. They also applied themselves successfully to creating the first popular historical preservation efforts: Medievalist Romantics such as Nanteuil, Charles Nodier, Baron Taylor, Victor Hugo, Bibliophile Jacob, Aloysius Bertrand, and the Bouzingo sculptor Jehan du Seigneur maintained a continuous campaign to change public opinion about medieval art, show the richness and complexity of its culture, and raise public awareness about France's disappearing medieval heritage, as ancient buildings throughout the country were being torn down to build new, "modern"-looking Neo-Classicist buildings.

Those involved also systematically compiled drawings and records of many architectural relics being torn down throughout the country, published the first studies of Medieval art, architecture, and everyday life, and began educational experiments based on medieval apprenticeship models. Their visual art and literature often crossed with frenetic work (whose roots were in gothic fiction), resulting in a sub genre of nihilistic horror stories set in the middle ages, in which sadistic necromancers and sex-murderers pause to deliver monologues about philology and the hypocrisy of power.

This campaign was co-ordinated and strategised; for instance, Hugo's 'Notre Dame de Paris ("Hunchback of Notre-Dame") and Bibliophile Jacob's "Danse Macabre" were both written in the same year, in successful opposition to plans to raze the former cathedral; Jacob's was set in another Parisian church called Notre Dame, which had been demolished fifty years earlier in an urban renewal effort. The writers shared their research and drafts with each other as they worked, and Nanteuil illustrated the first edition of Hugo's book.

Back to Nanteuil himself, despite his radical activity he seems to have had no enemies--everybody he knew, as far as the records show, thought of him in the same affectionate way as Gautier. After the avant-garde departed from Romanticism in the 1840s, Nanteuil became increasingly stuck illustrating pulp fiction, songbook covers, and other less challenging books in order to make a living, until in the wake of the Revolution of 1848 he was put in charge of the Visual Arts department at the University of Dijon, which town had long been the "second city" of the French avant-garde, especially medievalist and frenetic Romanticism, home to Aloysius Bertrand, Xavier Forneret, and Charles Brugnot. He seems to have filled the faculty with Romantics, including his old friend and Bouzingo co-founder Louis Boulanger, whose images I also posted earlier this week.

Though his books are still known to bibliophiles as some of the most beautiful of the time, he disappeared from art history, largely because he focused on printmaking and illustration, a "popular art," rather than painting. But you will see his influence in the illustrated borders, initial letters, and vignettes that adorn a great many books of French Romanticism in the 1830s & '40s and in the evolution of caricature and satirical cartoons in which he played a role alongside his friends Tony Johannot, Charles Phillipon, and Granville, and he was credited as central to the development of Romanticist illustration and bibliography by the avant-historian Jules Champfleury in his book on the subject in the 1860s, which refers to him as part of "l'avant-garde of Romanticism".…

Friday, August 21, 2015

Newly Available Images by Louis Boulanger!

Thanks to Matt Ames & a generous partnership with Philosophy INC, I have gained access to a book scanner, and will be posting the fruits of my labour over the next several days.

To start, here are 38 images by Louis Boulanger, the Frenetic Romanticist artist and co-founder of the Bouzingo, most of them never before available online:…/boulanger%20images%20fr…

Presently this pdf will be split into separate .jpegs which will be made available through the Bouzingo Gallery tab.

There is short biography of Boulanger and a translated sonnet written by him downloadable under the Biographies tab of this website.

Look for a new Boulanger anthology from the mOnocle-Lash Revenants series by the end of the year; it will be the first book dedicated to him since 1925, in the book (now in the public domain) from which these images are taken. These come from the copy in the Revenants Archive:

Louis Boulanger: Le Peintre Poête, by Aristide Marie. 1925. Sole Edition. Floury, Paris.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Newly Added: A Short Biography of Alphonse Brot

This short bio has been permanently added to the "Biographies" tab, and accompanies the addition of Brot's late novel Le Déesse Raison, and an 1880 promotional card for it, to the Revenant Archive:

Alphonse Brot

Alphonse Brot is among the most enigmatic members of the Bouzingo group. He is the earliest person to go on record as self-identifying as a member of "l'avant-garde," in his 'Preface to Song of Love and Other Poems,' published in 1829. Yet he explicitly bases this solidarity on the avant-garde's leftist political commitments; he was particularly close to O'Neddy and to Franz Lizst, both at the time keenly interested in Saint-Simonism and other proto-Socialist moveents, along with others in underground Romanticism. But formally, he advocates for a middle-ground or synthesis between Romanticism and Classicism, and his close friend O'Neddy later remarked that the group felt he lacked commitment to the Romanticist cause.

After the dissolution of the Bouzingo, his path seems to have drifted away from the avant-garde (at least in its Romanticist form). He appears to have ceased writing poetry, and devoted himself to novels and plays, which sold successfully for the next sixty years; for two years he was co-director of the Théâtre Ambigu-Comique, which specialised in popular melodrama for the lower classes. Despite his popularity at the time, he seems not to have been read at all from within a few years of his death. In the avant-garde, too, his name disappears from the discourse entirely after 1833, with the single exception of the O'Neddy letter referred/linked to above. My French is not good enough to allow me to read with any fluency his books or the hundred others calling for my attention, so we await another re-reading before we can fully reconstruct his trajectory and significance.

But despite this apparent apostasy, continuities seem to exist. On the one hand, many of his popular novels and melodramas seem to continue the gothic-Romanticist tradition of exaggerated violence, passion, and transgression; several of his titles, moreover, suggest themes related to revolution and resistance to tyranny (cf. Pray For Them, Karl Sand (a leftist German poet-martyr), and possibly this volume, which takes place during the French Revolution. On the other hand, enticingly, when in 1866 a group of avant-garde poets advocated for a new, experimental synthesis between Classicism and Romanticism, they designated themselves by a name that Brot used, in the very same paragraph, as a synomym for what he called the "avant-garde": the Parnasse Contemporain (Contemporary Parnassus).

Brot was the last member of the Bouzingo group to die. In the course of his life, Brot lived to see what he termed "the avant-garde of Romanticism" evolve into Bohemianism and the Cult of Art, then to Parnassianism (it name sounding strangely familiar) and Realism, and thence into Naturalism, Decadence and Symbolism; he would survived to see the early publications of Jarry, dying in 1895, the year before Ubu Roi premiered. Unfortunately, we have as yet uncovered nothing to indicate what he thought of these developments.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Sound Poetry in the 1890s?

Not Bouzingo-related per se, but here's an intriguing little mystery, which perhaps some better francophones might shed light on--it involves Phonetic Poetry (probably for satirical effect) in the 1890s:

I've come across a VERY strange 1890 text from the Symbolist journal 'Entretiens'. My current hypothesis is that it's a Symbolist parady or fake review, relating to some intra-avant debate regarding the poetics of Symbolism v. its precursor Parnassianism. Or, it's a review of a book with no bibliographic record online, by an author equally without any other (digital) trace.

Either way, it contains ("quotes" ?) something that looks a hell of a lot like Phonetic Poetry--very reminiscent of Zoum and Zurich Dada sound poems. There are fragments of French, embedded amidst apparent nonsense syllables; of it looks Slavic, but from what I can tell it is no known language. I've tried looking for homonyms, reversed spellings, etc for French but don't recognise anything.

The essay is by the Symbolist Francis Vielé-Griffin, who claims to be reviewing a book by a writer named Toussaint de Morne, of whom no other evidence exists. He devotes most of the article to quoting and paraphrasing the book's Preface/Manifesto. Apparently, de Morne claims to be a member of the Parnassian movement, which he upholds against Symbolism. The interesting thing is that the last anthology of the Parnassians had been published 14 years earlier--I would expect this to be old news, but clearly it reflects SOME discourse within the avant-garde at the time. He claims that the movement had degraded because of the failure of many of the individual poets, but that the theory still holds strong against the Symbolists (whose founders had begun in the Parnassian group).

He then moves on to relay Toussaint de Morne's assertions regarding linguistic evolution, Parnassianism's differences from Classicism, and finally a detailed argument about the way in spoken rhythm ought to be measured and structured in the writing of verse, which I can only half-follow due to my unfamiliarity with the details of French poetics. Then, Vielé-Griffin gives us some (supposed?) examples of the poet's verses--which, as I say, look like sound poetry written 15-25 years later, but which I hypothesize are actually intended to ridicule whomever it was in reality that held the views on scansion attributed to Toussaint de Morne.

The tone throughout is superficially positive, but given Vielé-Griffin's Symbolist affiliations and the fact that he makes no mention of the poems' odd orthography but instead compares them to the Parnassian poems of Copée (a particular target of Symbolist attacks) and Lecomte de l'Isle lead me to the conclusion that the piece is satirical, despite my French being inadequate to consistently register sarcasm.

Interestingly, in the same year Verlaine published another text veering toward sound poetry, in response to a new orthographic apparently being circulated by a now-unknown individual named Duvigneaux--it looks similar to this in some respects, though it sticks nearer to the French aurally--it's a deformation of spelling, whereas this seems truly phonetic--or am i wrong?