Rimbaud and the Johannine Christ: Containment and Liberation


The singular paradox that marks all of Rimbaud's poetry and which also takes into account all possible sources for his work is his effort to come to terms with the figure of Christ. In fact, Rimbaud's texts in Poésies, Derniers vers, Une Saison en enfer, and Illuminations are unified through his preoccupations with Christ as He is found in the New Testament writings of John. Rimbaud's æsthetic patterns parallel Johannine christological ones: rupture with known order, union of sign and thing signified, self-generation, binaries of opposition such as light-darkness and presence-absence, conjunction of ascent-descent, sound-sight, divine-human motifs, fusion of word and being. While Rimbaud scorns the didactic eschatological Christ of the Synoptic Gospels, he emphasizes the Johannine hypostatization of the creative Word as the principle of cohesion expressed by light, love, and spirit. Although Rimbaud is ultimately contained by the concrete word as testimony, his poetry remains the first modern attempt to liberate man from historical verbal expression and reunite him with the creative force of his universe through poetry. (VAL)

La Charité, Virginia A.
Release Year:
1973-1974 Fall-Winter; 2(1-2): 39-60.