Arnar 2011

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Arnar, Anna Sigrídur. The Book as instrument: Stéphane Mallarmé, The Artist's Book, and the Transformation of Print Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

"the book functioned for Mallarme as a strategic site to engage a modern public" (1)

livre de peintre / livre d'artiste (painter's or artist's book), and livre d'avant-garde (avant-garde or experimental book) -- M was instrumental in shaping the possibilities of these emergent genres

through late essays, Un coup, and unpublished notes for performance of Le Livr, "the poet radically redefined the experience of reading by exploiting the textual, visual, and temporal elements of the book. Implicitly, the reader must adopt new modalities for processing visual and verbal information, but above all, each reader participates in establishing the modality most appropriate to his or her needs, constituting what M called notre compréhension multiple (our multiple comprehension). Such a vision of reading recognized varies levels of engagement, and therefore, in M's hands, the book is not simply an exquisitely rendered container or precious relic but a catalyst for redefining the relationship between the book and its reader." (2)

"As I demonstrate, not only was M among the first literary figures in France to tap into the expanding network of original printmaking to publish his own books, but he adopted this network's developing strategies of distribution and promotion, including specific practices that were at that time exclusive to printmaking, such as hand signing and numbering limited editions." -- his work not simply harbinger of live de painter but "entrepreneurial alternatives for an artist and writer facing hostile rejection from the Salon and literary publishing houses, respectively" (3)

Reading Mallarme

"it is no longer possible to interpret Mallarme as a world-weary aesthete retreating into a hermetic terrain of the book. As the following chpaters demonstrate, the book -- as concept and as object -- was the subject of national debates, and its survival in the modern industrial age was perceived to be at risk." (16)

history of reading Mallarme -- attraction of post-structuralists, who read him as showing langauge is nothing but play with signs, walled off from outside world

centrality of Mallarme to debate between Benjamin and Adorno on autonomous art (21)

"One of the central claims I make in this book is that advanced poetry constituted for M one of the few viable arenas where democracy could be expanded and fully realized. Whereas Ranciere focuses on M's poems or the page as a site of negotiation, my study focuses on M's belief that the book embodies the most appropriate forum in which to achieve this ideal. The book's unique material and structural qualities permit an infinite range of possibility. It is a site that can offer multiple -- and conflicting -- modalities of reading, each of which, as M once deexplained, can be calibrated to diverse abilities of the reading public. Moreover, the book's flexible structure and diverse applications enable it to function within both private and public contexts." (26)

The Heroic Legacy of the Book

influence of Baudelaire -- offered a vocabulary and hierarchy for publishing in France in 19c -- "fragmentary or commercialized publiscations such as the album or the serial novel" were "well below publications that metaphorically implied coherence and totality, such as the dictionary and especiallyt he book" (30)

Baudelaire, defending Les fleurs du mal by saying it's a book, not an album; "Embedded in this heroic notion of the book is a deep sense of anxiety concerning the cultural status and authority of writers. A true book was to embody certain structural and moral commitments to one's craft and vocation; implicit to this definition was that a book required authentic literary talent." (30) -- stretching back to 17c, resentment among men of letters that anyone could publish a book; desire to distance oneself from amateures; "The term book thus became a kind of gold stanard and a symbolic measure of authenticity that could stand up against the perceived intrusions of upstart and semiprofessional writers, crass publishers, and booksellers." (30)

1820-1850: Romantic period in France; anxiety over "industrial literature" (albums, almanachs, roman-feuilleton) that segmented literature

"What is at stake in these 19c discussions concerning different publishing formats and categories is that the unifeid culture of the book that had been built on a regulated platform of established criteria was perceived as giving way to a fragmented culture of diverse consumer options." (31)

M absorbs B's definition but "eventually modifies and largely abandons Baudelaire's uncompromising antagonism toward industrialized publications." (32) -- ""Rather than calling for aesthetic retreat from the domain of commercialized media, he sought to analyze the mechanisms of its success as a way to imagine a means of reclaiming this public for advanced art and poetry." In this sense then, the 'instrumen-book' is not so much conceived in absolute opposition to the newspaper as it is as an absorption and recontextualization of some of its most innovative features." (32)

concern that segmented publication and multiple voices "legitimized discontinuous and nonsequential reading experiences based on individual desire or whim. Such a fragmented format shaped the reading experience as much as, if not more than, the content of the narrative." (34) -- Sainte-Beuve as leading critic in this vein

Baudelaire, book as "something willful and disciplined heroic" (40) -- building on Victor Hugo, who "described the whole of his oeuvre as a totalizing book" (40) -- influence of Poe, who in France was viewed as a poet-philosopher; M and B influenced by his methodological rigor, opening up a pathway for th eimpersonal voice (post-Romantic)

M -- never realized his book (see letters to Verlaine); "Le Livre" "appears in his writings as an unrealized project, the planning of which preoccupied him throughout his entire career" (43)

"Le 'Livre' de Mallarme" published posthumously in 1957; over 200 manuscript notes and diagrams -- just incoherent plans for "the Book," not "the Book" itself; shows preoccupation with numbers and measures; show he "envisioned the Book as a theatrical performance" (44); interest in newspaper as ideal -- "M was increasingly drawn to the democratic potentials of the newspaper because he saw in these newly cultivated reading experiences means of fostering the creative energies of a diversified public of readers. The book is thus not just a standard for the quality of the writer or a disciplined structure; it becomes an important tool -- and instrument -- for the potential to transform the public sphere." (44-5)

M's love for newspaper in Le Livre, instrument spirituel -- "Despite the openly commercial nature of the newspaper, which potentially effaces the book and compromises its integrity, M coyly insists on the 'charm' of the mass daily's lively, albeit tenuous, ordonnance. The multiple distractions require new habits of reading that require flexibility, visual acuity, and physical endurance. To emphasize this point, he likes the eye traveling its course to a pedestrian drawn tothe charms of a popular spectacle -- the reader must navigate a virtual obstacle course of sensation and movement." (47)

at the same time M is praising the newspaper, the publishing industry is experiencing "crise du livre" or the "krach" -- financial collapse (1880s into early years of 20c) -- ppl blamed dnewspapers, popular culture, "plague of reproduction" introduced by mass-circulation

"Although debased and commercialized, the newspaper emerges in M's account as a chaotic yet fluid public site offering individuals mobility and freedom." (49)

"What I identify in Mallarme's critical essays from the 1880s and '90s, and especially in his comments on the newspaper, is a pointed critique of contemporary cultural practices that had fundamentally neglected the creative role of the public." (50)

"As a collective and popular site, the newspaper represents a unique kind of public space that seems to be inclusive and participatory. Thus, despite its fragmentary structure, the newspaper provides viable alternatives to more autocratic forms of art because it has the capacity to reach a wide audience but can also 'yield intelligently' to the potentials of this audience." (51)

M "regrets that the newspaper squanders its true power in the public sphere. The task of the modern poet will be to reflect on the 'lessons' from the newspaper and to forge a new art." (51)

M "views his books as temporary gesures; they are provisional repositories of the ideal Book." (52) -- gap between ideal and real, but situates his works in relation to the Book -- e.g. he includes a list of his other works with each of his publications

irony: scarcity of limited edition and relative price restricted access to books, even as M lauded democratic potential