Death in Quotation Marks: Cultural Myths of the Modern Poet by Svetlana Boym

By Svetlana Boym

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Example text

Thus, in ancient rituals, as well as in the twentieth-century avant-garde theater of Artaud, Meyerhold, and others, the mask is often regarded as a typified image, closer to the intersubjective "self" than an actual face. " The paradox of the mask consists precisely in its ambivalence: in different moments in history and in different theaters it has been seen as a metaphor of exteriority, as an exterior superficial disguise, and by contrast as a metaphor of a deep, hidden, depersonalized inner self, an image of intersubjectivity.

Mallarmé leads what he calls the eventless life of a professional English teacher and family man, and he proudly claims that his life lacks extraordinary romantic adventures. Meanwhile, he aspires to compose the universal book, "le Livre," one that would present an ultimate explanation of the world. The opposite is the case for Arthur Rimbaud. He abandons poetry for the sake of the drama of life. The poet stops writing at the age of twenty, after having created extraordinarily innovative and precocious works, and undertakes a series of journeys in search of true modern life ("la vraie vie").

Crosscultural readings of the plurality of modernisms will prevent us from constructing a "strawman" modernist martyr as a single and universal model, revealing instead that the "modernist" self-fashioning has more "Romantic," "Realist," and "postmodern" features than we are often accustomed to acknowledge. In each of the chapters I examine a specific instance of the death of the author that challenges the practice of close reading. " In Chapter 1 I focus on the legend of a poet without a biography—the legend of Mallarmé's "defacement" and some peculiar figurations of this defacement created by his contemporaries.

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