Date of Submission

Spring 2023

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Éric Trudel

Abstract/Artist's Statement

In this project, I will shed light on Char’s poetics during The French Resistance. Char’s Resistance poetry, Fureur et Mystère [Furor and Mystery] (1938-1948), will be the main text this project. The first comparative study is bridged between René Char and one of his best friends, Albert Camus. It is not a coincidence that the most powerful section of Fureur et Mystère, “Feuillets d’Hypnos” written between 1943-1944, is devoted to Camus. In this chapter, I will explicate the logic of resistance in Char’s writing—in reference to Camus’s 1951 work L'Homme révolté [The Rebel] and Michael Kohlhaas, the rebellious character in Kleist’s novel. I will also show how such logic—being tautological while excessive—is by nature a grammar of sovereignty and a strategy of writing embedded in Char’s poetics, even though Fureur et Mystère was written before The Rebel was published. Then, I will elaborate on how Char translates the notion of sovereignty into the major components of his poetics. In the second part of this project, following the conclusion of the previous chapter, I will work on the relationship between Char’s poetry and ontology. To explicate the ontological aspects of Char’s poetry, it is necessary to locate texts written by the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, who held a huge influence over Char’s poetry. In this chapter, I will connect sovereignty, which is fully discussed in the first chapter, to the notion of impersonality in modern poetry. I will also argue that the tendency of postulating topos, a commonplace to make a speech on the genesis of the universal, which demands sovereignty that pre-Socratic philosophers naturally neglect—they take it for granted—is still a characteristic of modern poetry. For modern poets, to be impersonal amounts to postulate topos that entail his negative relationship with modernity. For Heraclitus, topos is the ever-living fire; for Char, similarly, topos is the uninterrupted vigilance. Whereas, it is precisely the fire’s tendency to be ever-living, which ends up making topos the very denial of topos: fire that constantly burns without reaching a definite form is the interminable absence that never incarnates into beings rather than the continuous presence; there is neither termination that can be reached, nor any moderation that can be deduced from the fire. In this sense, fire is the chaos or the nothingness that ever destroys the object it has just constructed. However, rather than being crucified to this fate like Heralictus’ fire, Char’s poetics finds a way to let such fire indurate and, thus, incarnate. This very way is closely related to his usage of “almond”, the recurrent imagery in Char’s poetry. Almond is the imagery that records the hardening and the incarnation of the ever- living fire into separate entities and fragments in Char’s writing. To some extent, Char’s poetics that imposes incarnation to the ever-living fire is the impersonalization of the impersonality in the sense that fire, as topos, is the primary impersonalization, while enforcing this very fire to incarnate is the secondary impersonalization. On the other hand, such secondary impersonalization is also associated with Char’s pragmatism and his identity of a leader of a guerilla team. In the final section of the second chapter, I will then propose a comparison between Char and Antigone’s gesture in regard to this secondary impersonalization that renders nothingness visible and incarnated in order to capture the form and role of nothingness in Char’s poetry. In the third Chapter, I would like to argue that the quality of spontaneity of Char's language that refuses readers' appropriation is a form of density. Such density, in the form of sudden irruptions of the word and phrase, is, on the one hand, akin to automatism that surrealists adopt. On the other hand, it is the opposite of the very quality of transparency that surrealists seek. For surrealists, transparency entails the marvelous. Transparency is the result of total mental conductivity, which is, for André Breton, what one should “learn to dominate instead of desperately cringing from it” it is quality and also one’s ability that dissolves reality into the hegemony of thought. Yet, In Char's poetics, the dissolution in a Heraclitus fashion usually anticipates the sudden irruption, the inchoate and fragmentary presence that gushes out of the extreme density. Also central to Char’s poetics is the point that the dissolution is, by nature, productive. In this regard, I will compare and contrast the dialectics embedded in Char and Breton's poetics to seek a deliberate explanation of the nature of the spontaneity of Char's language.

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