Baudelaire’s Feminine Counter-Signature: “Mademoiselle Bistouri”’s Photographic Poetics [Invited Essay]

This essay reconsiders the enduring impact of Charles Baudelaire’s modernity in light of his writings on photography. By reading his essay “Le Public moderne et la photographie” in relation to other texts in which he describes how modern life transforms the art of seeing, it is argued that photography is not to be seen as a medium in itself for Baudelaire, but rather as a general threat to a poetic mode of seeing. Like his own poetic writings, photography displaces existing aesthetic categories and reconfigures the relationship between art and the world. Baudelaire explicitly refers to photography only once in his entire poetic corpus, in the prose poem “Mademoiselle Bistouri.” Through a close reading of that text, this essay argues that photography is not in fact simply opposed to art for Baudelaire, but rather it exposes critical aspects of the production, reproduction, and circulation of his poetic images.

Elissa Marder
Emory University
Volume 46.1–2