The Flowers of Evil

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Oxford University Press, May 15, 2008 - Fiction - 464 pages
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The Flowers of Evil, which T. S. Eliot called the greatest example of modern poetry in any language, shocked the literary world of nineteenth century France with its outspoken portrayal of lesbian love, its linking sexuality and death, its unremitting irony, and its unflinching celebration of the seamy side of urban life. The volume was seized by the police, and Baudelaire and his published were put on trial for offence to public decency. Six offending poems were banned, ina conviction that was not overturned until 1949.This bold new translation, which restores the banned poems to their original places and reveals the full richness and variety of the collection, makes available to English speakers a powerful and original version of the world. Jonathan Culler's Introduction outlines this vision, stressing that Baudelaire is more than just the poet of the modern city. Originally to be called `The Lesbians', The Flowers of Evil contains the most extraordinary body of love poetry. The poems also pose thequestion of the role of evil in our lives, of whether there are not external forces working to frustrate human plans and to enlist men and women on appalling or stultifying scenarios not of their own making.

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The flowers of evil

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The rendering of Baudelaire's ground-breaking classic into English has been tackled numerous times in various ways since the 19th century. In this version, rather than utilizing rhymed stanzas, free ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
xiii
Note on the Text
xxxviii
Select Bibliography
xlix
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Charles Baudelaire, 1821 - 1867 Charles Baudelaire had perhaps had an immeasurable impact on modern poetry. He was born on April 9, 1821, to Joseph-Francois Baudelaire and Caroline Archimbaut Dufays in Paris. He was educated first at a military boarding school and then the College Louis-le-Grand, where he was later expelled in 1839. Baudelaire then began to study law, at the Ecole de Droit in Paris, but devoted most of his time to debauchery. After an abortive trip to the East, he settled in Paris and lived on an inheritance from his much despised step father, while he wrote poetry. During this period he met Jeanne Duval, a mulatto with whom he fell in love with and who became the "Black Venus," the muse behind some of his most powerful erotic verse. Baudelaire strove to portray sensual experiences and moods through complex imagery and classical form, avoiding sentimentality and objective description. Thus he profoundly influenced the later French symbolist writers, including Mallarme and Rimbaud, and such English-language poets as Yeats, Eliot, and Stevens. With much of his inheritance squandered, Baudelaire turned to journalism, especially art and literary criticism, the first of which were "Les Salons". Here he discovered the work of Edgar Allan Poe, which became an influence on his own poetry. While continuing to write unpublished verse, Baudelaire became famous as critic and translator of Poe. This reputation enabled Baudelaire to publish his most famous collection of poetry, "Les Fleurs du Mal" (The Flowers of Evil) in 1857. The result was an obscenity trial and the banning of six of the poems. Though he continued to write journalism with some success, he became increasingly depressed and pessimistic. Baudelaire attempted suicide in 1845, an attempt to get attention, and became minorly involved in the French Revolution. Today Baudelaire's work is considered the "last brilliant summation of romanticism, precursor of symbolism and the first expression of modern techniques". It was his originality that set him apart and ultimately proved to be his end. Baudelaire died, apparently from complications of syphilis, on August 31, 1867, in Paris.

James McGowan, Ph.D., is Instructor and Coordinator, Administration and Supervision Program, School of Education, Johns Hopkins University.

Jonathan Culler is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Cornell University and a leading figure in the world of literary theory. Praised by Frank Kermode for his 'remarkable expository skills', his publications include seminal works on deconstruction and semiology as well as studies of
individual authors. HisVSI Literary Theory is the series bestseller with sales of 40,000 copies to date.

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