In Translation: Charles Baudelaire’s Spleen de Paris


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Course Code: HSDP-fa23 Categories: , , , Tags: ,


Begun in 1855 but only published as a collection in 1869, Charles Baudelaire’s Spleen de Paris contains fifty prose poems. Like the poems in its more famous sibling, Les Fleurs du Mal, the vignettes in Spleen are attentive to the coexistence of beauty and grotesqueness of modern life. However, in the pose poems, Baudelaire employs a radically different poetic strategic, reaching, as he explains in a letter to his editor, for “a poetic, musical prose without rhythm or rhyme, flexible enough to adapt to the lyrical movements of the soul, to the undulations of reverie, to the jolts of consciousness.” The resulting texts contain evocative scenes of urban life, dramatic encounters, and carefully crafted images. In this class, we will look at three poems from Spleen de Paris, both in the original and in translation, to identify and appreciate both the lyrical/poetic elements of the texts and the specific gains afforded by its prose elements. Knowledge of French is optional.

Barbara Thimm is a writer, translator, and educator. Her translations of selected poems by Timothy Donnelly and Mary Jo Bang were published by luxbooks in Germany. “A Discovery Behind the House,” the translation of a short story by Ror Wolf, appeared in Asymptote. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and two sons.

Start Date: 10/18/2023, 1 meeting
Class Time: 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Day of Week: Wednesday
Location: Zoom
Instructor: Barbara Thimm
Status: Running/Openings