La race des poètes

With a focus on a “French” corpus ranging from the 1850s to the 1900s, this essay explores different literary theorizations of race through poetry. From Vigny to Lautréamont and Vivien, the ancient syntagm “race of the poets” is often revived to build the mythology of what Verlaine would call the poète maudit. There, such a poetic “race” may remain structurally unrelated to the contemporary conceptualization developed by Gobineau for instance (or, conversely, by Firmin), even with Baudelaire, whose work is otherwise linked to the colonial experience. While the existence of a link between the assertion of racial belonging and poetic production cannot be determined a priori, it sometimes leads to intricate, multifold, and meta-literary statements about ethnicity, nationhood, and creation. Besides Rimbaud’s “Mauvais sang,” we describe such reflexive constructs in Verhaeren’s work and in the volumes published by the Haitian writer Paul Lochard, whose poetry is interpreted anew. (In French)

Laurent Dubreuil
Cornell University