The writings of the great Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) were to become uniquely influential in twentieth century literary criticism. For critics and philosophers such as Maurice Blanchot and Jacques Derrida, Mallarmé's name came to represent a rupture in literary history, and an opening of literature onto a radically new kind of writing. Through close readings of key works, Norman retraces Mallarmé’s trajectory as a poet, showing in particular how he positioned his work in relation to Hegel’s Aesthetics. Analysing the motif of the sunset Norman argues that Mallarmé situated his work at the conclusion of the history of art, in Hegelian terms, and it is this that made him so interesting for Blanchot and Derrida. Their readings, born of their wish to subvert Hegel's totalizing impulse, give rise to an entirely new view of works now almost universally seen as masterpieces.
Barnaby Norman completed his PhD at King's College, London, and is currently translating two volumes of Bernard Stiegler's Symbolic Misery for Polity.
‘This study argues that Mallarmé’s poetry takes up a problem first posed by Hegel’s Aesthetics, namely that art’s self-transcendence can never be complete. Norman offers close readings of four works by Mallarmé (‘Hérodiade’, ‘Sonnet allégorique de luimême’, ‘Igitur’ and ‘Un coup de dés’) while demonstrating Mallarmé’s relevance to problems at the intersection of literature and critical theory which play a central role in the writings of Maurice Blanchot and the early Jacques Derrida, each of whom is the subject of a chapter in the second half of the book.’ — unsigned notice, Forum for Modern Language Studies 51.3, July 2015
‘Mallarmé’s Sunsets reminds us that regardless of whether Hegel held any influence over Mallarmé’s thinking, returning to the poetry itself can help us better understand 'our own epoch,' our contemporary situation, in ways not yet fully disclosed.’ — Christian R. Gelder, Colloquy 29, 2015, 80-90
‘This study analyses the crucial role of Stéphane Mallarmé’s poetry in the work of two of the twentieth century’s most important theorists: Maurice Blanchot and Jacques Derrida. Mallarmé’s Hegelianism, a long-contested issue in Mallarmé scholarship, assumes centre stage in Barnaby Norman’s understanding both of the poet’s development and of the position Blanchot and Derrida assign him as marking the transition from the Livre to Écriture.’ — Rebecca Pekron, French Studies 69.4, October 2015, 545-46
‘Norman provides us with an imaginative reading of the reception of Mallarmé’s thought and work by two of the most influential French thinkers of the twentieth century; he returns frequently to the figure of Hegel and his notion of the end of art. This study helps to remind readers of the undeniably significant presence of the poet for more modern philosophy, while Norman avoids the pitfall of losing sight of Mallarmé’s exquisitely beautiful poetic vision.’ — Pamela A. Genova, Nineteenth-Century French Studies 44.1-2, 2015
Norman, Barnaby, Mallarmé's Sunset: Poetry at the End of Time (Cambridge: Legenda, 2014)
First footnote reference:35 Barnaby Norman, Mallarmé's Sunset: Poetry at the End of Time (Cambridge: Legenda, 2014), p. 21.