To a backdrop of dizzying urbanization, French utopian thinkers of the nineteenth century set out to explore the transformative possibilities of the modern metropolis. Linking literary analyses with diverse strands of cultural and intellectual history, this study considers how the utopian vision of the city in turn came to impinge on prose writing by poets: in Saint-Simonian literature, and in texts by Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud. At points steeped in the hyperbolic rhetoric of utopian projects, these texts nonetheless wear away at the internal coherence of that rhetoric and the idealizing meanings it supports. What emerges from Greg Kerr’s analysis is a hitherto unfamiliar dimension of these writings, revealing the alertness of some of the greatest exponents of nineteenth-century poetry to the dynamic possibilities of utopian writing, and suggesting new ways to understand the evolution of poetic discourse across the century.
Greg Kerr is Lecturer in French at the University of Lancaster.
‘This is a valuable and ambitious study which operates deftly on the edge of cultural and intellectual history and successfully inflects our understanding of the emergence, and the evolution, of a literary form.’ — Claire White, Journal of European Studies 43, 2013, 378-79
‘An ambitious inquiry into key structural and thematic aspects of poetic prose in nineteenth-century France, Greg Kerr’s Dream Cities combines a diverse array of primary sources and theoretical frameworks... Of particular interest in this book is Kerr’s attention to textual innovations pursued by several Saint-Simonian writers, including Barthélémy-Prosper Enfantin, Michel Chevalier, Charles Duveyrier, and Emile Barrault.’ — Suzanne F. Braswell, H-France 13, November 2013, 175
‘In this study Greg Kerr intriguingly argues that the contemporaneous development of the prose poem is closely associated with utopian dreaming, as if Baudelaire’s dream of a prose poétique, sufficiently supple and abrupt to adapt itself to the ‘mouvements lyriques de l’âme, aux ondulations de la rêverie, aux soubresauts de la conscience’ ... could alone do justice to these new social and physical structures.’ — Rosemary Lloyd, French Studies 68.1, January 2014, 118
‘This work is a fascinating study of the ways in which the modern metropolis altered not only the content, but also the formal innovations of several nineteenth-century French writers... An innovative and valuable contribution to both urban and literary studies.’ — unsigned notice, Forum for Modern Language Studies 50.1, January 2014, 128
‘A significant contribution to our understanding of the ways that utopian and journalistic writing can be juxtaposed alongside the prose poem and other visual and architectural projections of urban futurity. Kerr convincingly shows how this set of disparate phenomena collectively reflects the dynamic, uncertain, and ultimately unfulfilled desires of a society en quête de forme.’ — Daniel Sipe, Nineteenth-Century French Studies 43.1-2, 2014
‘Investigations of the ‘poème en prose’ as a hybrid form are multiple, and Kerr’s arguments add to them. His aims, however, are distinctive. Rather than seek to explain such hybridity by tracing the form’s identity or development within a specific historical tradition, he presents a more fluid and open kind of contextualization, in which new awareness of unfamiliar utopian rhetoric contributes to our understanding of the urban prose poem. Notions of hybridity are thereby extended and enriched.’ — Richard Hobbs, Modern Language Review 110.3, July 2015, 870-71 (full text online)
Kerr, Greg, Dream Cities: Utopia and Prose by Poets in Nineteenth-Century France (Cambridge: Legenda, 2012)
First footnote reference:35 Greg Kerr, Dream Cities: Utopia and Prose by Poets in Nineteenth-Century France (Cambridge: Legenda, 2012), p. 21.