Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Comparative World Literature
This project will explore the recurring photographic themes in the work of Mallarmé and how they illustrate how he recontextualizes photography into a method of poetic thought, philosophy, and aesthetics. Conscious of both the photograph as an important material object in 19th-century culture and as a mechanism for vision and consciousness, Mallarmé plays with the concept of the photographic image within his poetry to challenge the purely mimetic quality of photography and to transpose the elements of photographic art into his own poetic tools. The photograph becomes a method of thought, a mode of discovering details, and a conception of illusionary poetic spaces. The transposition of the photographic into the poetic allows for the poem to be permeated with vision and light. The paradox of photography is that it is an art that is simultaneously tied to the real and yet has the means of conjuring up illusions, specifically in the 19th century with the creation of spirit and trick photography: the photographic as a means of creating magical effects. Mallarmé situates himself not only as a philosopher of photography but also as a magician who concurrently exposes its tricks, believes in its illusions and uses its characteristics to create a magic poetry that highlights photography’s duality as imaginary and real. Focusing on the photographic’s relation to magic, Mallarmé and photography, and Mallarmé and magic, the paper will expose the structures of photographic tricks that are acted out within the poet’s work. Central to the project are the photographic and magic themes of disappearance and reappearance that transfigure Mallarmé into a philosopher and magician of light. The paper will reveal these two themes to express the importance of the synthesis of poetry, photography and magic in Mallarmé’s work.
Alperin, Jessie, "Sous Les Astres Immobiles: Stéphane Mallarmé and the Magic of Photography" (2018). Honors Theses. 212.