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.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Top Ten Bouzingo Reading List in English!

For Anglophones who have been following this project, or have stumbled on it while pursuing their own interests, and desire to become familiar with the work, community and history of the Romanticist Avant-Garde:

Here are the ten books I'd recommend as a starter-kit for those who want to understand, research, interpret, and read the work of the Bouzingo and their immediate circle (really, just the first couple of these would put somebody in a good position to start researching and theorizing along their own lines of inquiry). I've chosen and ranked these on the basis of availability (reasonably priced and easy to find), degree of the book's focus on the group/community itself, general value for a broad range of research interests, and how much of the vast sweep of the movement the book conveys--"1" being the most essential in my view for understanding the movement, "10" the least-most (but still) essential.

I can make other suggestions / lists based on specific interests or research questions, as well as materials in French, ore scattered sources, and academic articles--just ask!

Here we go:

  1. Théophile Gautier  (1908) A History of Romanticism: The Progress of French Poetry Since 1830, trans. F.C. Sumichrast. New York, George D. Sproul.  Hist. of Romanticism: 230 pp. Entire Book: 360 pp.  Available at the Internet Archive.

    A memoir of Avant-Romanticism by one of the founders of the Bouzingo, written (and left unfinished) on his deathbed. A very fun, engaging, detailed first-person account, the most extensive record of the movement by a participant to be made available in English. It's impressionistic in technique, so there's little in the way of exact chronology or coherent narrative; a collection of memories without a clear order. Only available in facsimile reprint (the Kessinger edition is decent) or in original copies from 1908. A heavily annotated edition is in my long-term plans. The second text included here is Gautier's account of the avant-garde between Romanticism and 1860; it covers the obscure territory of the Bohême Doyennée/Cult of Art and Parnassian movements, but unlike the History of Romanticism is restricted to discussions of poetics.

  2. Enid Starkie.  (1954). Petrus Borel, the Lycanthrope: His Life and Times. New York: New Directions. 220 pp. Available at the Internet Archive

    Though it centers on Borel, this book touches on many other parts of the avant-garde of the 1830s-40s, and is the most extensive secondary source on the Bouzingo available in English. A lot of great information, but Starkey has an oddly patronizing tone toward Borel, and fails to see the significance of much of what she reports. Like most scholarship in the area, her chronology is vague and confused, sometimes implying faulty timelines or making unsubstantiated inferences; but the book remains the most comprehensive English source for this community. It has been out of print for 60 years, but affordable copies are still easily found online.

  3. Petrus Borel. (2013) Champavert: Immoral Tales. trans. Brian Stableford. Borgo Press. 235 pp.

    This recently-published translation hugely expands our picture of the Frenetic movement. The 1833 collection of avant-Romanticist horror stories is considered the pinnacle of Frenetic Romanticism in its most extreme, experimental form--a clear influence on Lautréamont, Baudelaire, Huysmans & Jarry. The stories are violent and nihilistic, their structure fractured and digressive, their heroes and antiheroes drawn from those oppressed by reason of race, religion or class; the sentences densely twisted and artificial, the vocabulary a jumble of neologisms, archaic and dead words, and a dozen different technical vocabularies.

  4.  Théophile Gautier. (1908) Elias Wildmanstadius, Daniel Jovard, & The Bowl of Punch. New York, George D. Sproul. Relevant section: 86 pp.   Available at the Internet Archive.

    These three stories (often printed with the novella 'Jack and Jill' in editions of Gautier's Collected Works) were published during the height of Frenetic Romanticism, and are taken from his series of lightly-fictionalised accounts of life in the avant-garde, 'The Jeunes-France'. The other seven stories have never been translated. Wildly experimental and outright funny, they are also an intimate picture of the early avant community, using their mix of fact and fiction to paint a vivid picture of the imaginative and emotional world of Romanticist 'camaraderie' and their re-invention of everyday life and friendship.

  5. Petrus Borel. (2015). Lycanthropy: Some Shreds Torn from 'Rapsodies'. Roanoke, VA: mOnocle-Lash Anti-Press. 36 pp.   available free HERE.

    The only collection of Borel's poetry and theory in English, edited and preceded by a critical biography of Borel by Olchar Lindsann of this very website.
  6. Gérard de Nerval--'The Chimeras' / 'Aurélia' / Anthologies (assorted editions)

    Gérard is one of two of the Bouzingo to have been translated extensively into English (along with Gautier), and the only one who has a certain amount of currency in the anglophone avant-garde, mainly because he was championed by Breton. From his immense corpus, two collections are readily obtainable in English: the verse 'Chimeras' and prose-poem sequence 'Aurélia', written after the Bouzingo period during and around his repeated treatments for mental instability. The Chimeras were also published as a group later, but some of the poems date from the 1830s, and as a whole it seems to reflect several of the many threads present in his work at that time. A search will bring up a number of different Nerval anthologies in English, most with a lot of overlap, all worth reading.

  7. Paul Lacroix (Bibliophile Jacob), Danse Macabre. trans. Brian Stableford. Encino, CA: Black Coat Press. 237 pp.

    Bibliophile Jacob, a.k.a. Paul Lacroix, was one of the most influential of the Frenetics--a leading expert on the Middle Ages, and a leader of the Medievalist movement in France; a writer of medieval horror stories such as this one; a pioneering Romanticist archivist, bibliographer and librarian; the first modern champion and editor of Rabelais; proponent of a radical, heretical neo-Christian Socialism; close friend of the Bouzingo and brother-in-law of the group's co-founder Jehan DuSeigneur. This is a classic novel of Frenetic Romanticism, mentioned by name in Gautier's story "The Bowl of Punch" (see above), written in close co-ordination with Victor Hugo while the latter wrote 'Hunchback of Notre-Dame" (itself based largely on Lacroix's research), and in conversation with it.
  8. Joseph Bouchardy, The Garrick Remedy. Trans. Talia Felix. Roanoke, VA: mOnocle-Lash. Free HERE.

    This short story about the theatre is the only known translation of a text by this Frenetic writer and engraver and co-founder of the Bouzingo.

  9. Paul Bénichou. (1999) The Consecration of the Writer, 1750-1830. trans. Mark K. Jensen. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Most relevant section: 45 pp. Entire Book: 342 pp.

    Only the final chapter of this book focuses on the Bouzingo/Jeunes France group, but it the most cogent, nuanced analysis that I have seen of them. The rest of the book covers the earlier stages of French Romanticism, c.1815-1830, and provides an extremely thorough and revelatory understanding of the cultural & intellectual contexts from which the Romanticist avant-garde emerged.
  10. Théophile Gautier. (1905). Mademoiselle de Maupin. Sociéty de Beaux-Arts. Available free at the Internet Archive.

    Published at the end of the Bouzingo period, in 1835, this book by a co-founder of the group contains (but not in all modern editions! Check first!) his important 'Preface to Mlle. de Maupin' which signaled a theoretical shift from Frenetic Romanticism to a Cult of Art. The novel, for which Gautier was prosecuted for public indecency, plays with themes of transvestism, lesbianism, and homosexuality.