UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Charles Baudelaire et la pensee litteraire d'Edgar Allan Poe Plant, John Frederick


The purpose of this thesis is to consider the extent to which Edgar Allan Poe’s literary thought influenced Charles Baudelaire, Chapter one will explain when and how Baudelaire became acquainted with the works of the American writer. It will be seen that from his first readings of Poe, the Frenchman was profoundly moved; he felt that he had discovered a “frère spiritual." Baudelaire devoted almost seventeen years to the task of finding out all he could about Poe, writing articles about him and translating many of his works, the latter resulting in what is often considered to be one of the finest translations in literature. In chapter two it will be noted that there were many biographical affinities between the two writers, but that Baudelaire, in his articles on Poe, often emphasized the similarities and alluded only briefly to some of the basic differences. This can be explained by the fact that the French poet was determined that he and Poe should resemble each other. However, if the biographical similarities are often exaggerated by Baudelaire, the esthetic and artistic affinities offer a far more solid basis for comparison. Indeed, as chapter three will attempt to show, both poets shared many of the same precepts governing poetry, such as the ideal length of a poem, the role of music in verse, and the primordial importance of poetry in the life of man. Early critics tended to attribute these similarities to Poe's influence on Baudelaire. Nowadays, however, scholars tend more to ascribe this somewhat unique literary phenomenon to common influences working independently on the two poets. The general consensus is that Baudelaire's esthetic and artistic outlook was almost completely formed before he became acquainted with Poe's works. A chronological examination of some of the Frenchman's poems would appear to corroborate this theory. On the other hand, there are a number of poems which Baudelaire dedicated to a certain Madame Sabatier, in which may be seen ideas, images and even complete phrases which resemble Poe to such a degree that one is all but forced to conclude that they must result from Baudelaire's familiarity with the American's works. Chapter four discusses some of5ssthe more outstanding similarities which occur in this group, known as the "cycle de Madame Sabatier." In conclusion, it may be said that, with the exception of the Sabatier poems, Poe did not transform Baudelaire's fundamental literary outlook and added nothing to his genius. On the other hand, and of the utmost importance in a man of Baudelaire's somewhat unstable make-up, the Frenchman saw in his idol a kind of vindication of his own ideals and derived from him a certain faith in the value of his own genius. Approved as abstract:

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