Baudelaire as a Girl: Writing Through Problematic Legacies in Lisa Robertson’s The Baudelaire Fractal

At a time when students and academics are grappling with the cultural legacies of misogyny, Lisa Robertson’s novel The Baudelaire Fractal (2020) offers a challenging, creative mode of engagement with the male canon. It describes the journey into writing of Hazel Brown, a young woman whose painful encounter with Baudelaire’s misogyny inspires not a rejection but an appropriation: one day she discovers within herself the authorship of Baudelaire’s complete works, expressed as a bodily commingling: “that female mouth was both his and mine.” Hazel’s methods of self-expression echo those of both the French pioneers of écriture féminine and recent menstrual theorists, figuring her girlhood as a bloodstain which makes female subjectivity visible. I explore how Hazel transforms Baudelaire and his texts, blurring gender boundaries and fusing with him in a symbiotic, non-hierarchical relationship. What emerges is a defence of reading as the work of a desire which is borderless, encouraging us to persevere with, and to embrace, “the difficult texture of difference.”