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Assigned: "Crisis in Poetry" (841-50).

"Crisis in Poetry" (1896)

1. On 845-47, what is the "crisis" in literature? What does the breakup of the old standard French Alexandrine form have to do with it? What promise does the advent of free verse hold?

2. On 847-48, what account does Mallarmé give for poetry's existence at all? In what way does ordinary language disappoint us, promising things it can't deliver? (Consider our expectation that language can "express" our feelings and that it can "point to" objects in the world around us.)

3. On 849, how does the poetry Mallarmé advocates liberate us from the disappointment owing to our dealings with everyday, prosaic language? What does he apparently mean by his term "Transposition"?

4. Mallarmé writes on 850 that "the intellectual word at its purest point . . . must lead . . . to Music." Consider his comments on 850-51, particularly his example, "I say: a flower!..." Why might music be the ideal towards which poetic language should strive?

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 1st ed. New York: Norton, 2001. ISBN 0-393-97429-4.