Charles Baudelaire Questions for English 256 Intro to Theory, Chapman University Fall 2012



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Assigned: from The Painter of Modern Life. (680-90).

From The Painter of Modern Life

From I: "Beauty, Fashion, and Happiness"

1. On 680-81 ("Beauty, Fashion, and Happiness"), how does Baudelaire's analysis of beauty compare with and depart from Kant's treatment of aesthetic experience, which as you'll recall involves a kind of disinterested, "dry" pleasure in the objects we declare beautiful and which also partly involves our relationship to the natural world? (680-81)

2. On 680-81 ("Beauty, Fashion, and Happiness"), according to Baudelaire, Stendhal's definition of beauty as "nothing else but a promise of happiness" (une promesse de bonheur) breaks cleanly with "the academic error." What does he apparently mean by the latter term? In your own words, what does Baudelaire think is the problem with Stendhal's definition, and what's the error involved in "the academic error"? (680-81)

From III: "The Artist, Man of the World, Man of the Crowd, and Child"

3. On 682-84 ("The Artist …"), in the section "The Artist …," Baudelaire treats the obscure artist Constantin Guys as the type of the artist as flâneur. What are the defining characteristics of this type? How is Guys the embodiment of "genius" as Baudelaire defines it?

4. On 682-84, ("The Artist …"), how does Baudelaire's definition and treatment of "genius" compare with Kant's explication of that concept (445-49)?

5. On 682-84 ("The Artist …"), what inferences can you make about the status of the individual artist in Baudelaire's theory? In his description of the flâneur (and later the dandy), is Baudelaire offering all of us a model for perceiving the world afresh, or is he implying that this kind of power is limited to an elite artistic few? (see 684 especially)

From IV: "Modernity"

6. On 684-86 ("Modernity"), how does Baudelaire define "modernity"? Is this a phenomenon he claims is new in human history, or is it a recurring one? Why is it vital for artists (or critics) to attend to the details, the ephemera, of their own times? What would they miss if they did not do that?

7. With regard to Baudelaire's interest in "modernity" on 684-86, how would you characterize the fashion industry's relation to such a concept in twenty-first-century America? Do Baudelaire's comments that touch upon fashion seem like a good description of the American/European fashion industry's workings and operative principles today? Why or why not?

From IX: "The Dandy"

8. On 686-88 ("The Dandy"), how does Baudelaire characterize the "dandy"? What are the dandy's main characteristics and interests, and how does this type differ from the flâneur in his comportment towards his fellow citizens and their habits and beliefs?

XI: "In Praise of Cosmetics"

9. On 688-90 ("In Praise of Cosmetics"), what fault does Baudelaire find with his predecessors and contemporaries who appeal to nature as the foundation of morals and beauty? Why is artifice (including cosmetics) a better foundation for both morals and beauty? How does Baudelaire's approach to the concept of nature mark a significant departure from that of the English romantics? Which treatment of nature and beauty do you prefer, and why?

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2010. ISBN 978-0-393-93292-8.