Talk:Symbolism (arts)

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Separating symbolist literature and art[edit]

As has been argued below, symbolist literature and symbolist art are, to a significant extent, different aesthetics. The mixing of the two in 2006 diminished the quality of this article. Statements that are true about symbolist art often do not hold for symbolist literature and vice-versa.


Symbolist poetry largely begins with Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil) by Charles Baudelaire, and Baudelaire, in turn, was deeply influenced in his literary theories by the poems and stories of Edgar Allan Poe, whom he translated into French. In this sense, Symbolism is the first major literary movement that had its roots in the United States of America.

An interesting theory but the corollary of which is under determined by the facts. The symbolist movement did not ultimately devolve purely from the work of Baudelaire, significant though he may have been. To what extent Baudelaire was influential (& by extension Poe) on the likes of Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, etc can be debated ad nauseam, but certainly Baudelaire is no Poe clone and moreover symbolism as a form definitely pre-existed Poe. This kind of Americano-centric nonsense makes precisely the point I have reiterated over and over: it is the steady trickle of US Minitruth propaganda of the most revolting kind. user:sjc

The roots of Symbolism in the USA are striking mostly because so few literary movements or schools started here, especially in the 19th century. I am not at all certain that symbolism is a form; it is a school, a set of shared poetic aims, mannerisms, and stock tropes. Symbolism, in one sense, represents the continuation of the more Gothic and pessimistic side of Romanticism, and a such Poe would merit a mention in any case. Almost all Symbolist poets I have metion Poe in their verse at one point or another, or allude to a Poe story or theme. ---Ihcoyc

I have no problem with Poe being cited as influential, and indeed I would say that the work of Baudelaire was to a great extent coloured by his reading and translations of Poe, but nowhere nearly as much as some critics would like to suggest. To suggest that Symbolism is a school however is to entirely misrepresent it. Symbolism represents a particular aesthetic take on things which is beyond the simplicitudes of allegiance and expediency: you either subscribe to the symbolist take or you don't, which is why poets who are capable of spanning the dichotomous chasm are such a rarity e.g. Marina Tsvetaeva. Symbolism, moreover, has obvious European antecedents which predate Poe such as e.g. Blake. user:sjc

FWIW, I sought to underline antecedents to Symbolism in the USA, not to promote the cultural primacy of the USA, but rather to suggest a counternarrative to the standard model of "American Literature," which is strongly biased in favour of social realism. The Symbolist stream flourished here --- what would all of those silent movie producers have done w/o Symbolist imagery? --- but the standard academic narrative says something else. Symbolism is more respected elsewhere in the Americas --- J. L. Borges owes much to Symbolism, as do Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, and for that matter the Hernandez brothers --- but in Poe's own native land, our most "important" native writer is not given the respect he deserves. That was what I meant by seeking to magnify Poe as a source of Symbolism, not to promote some version of "everything was invented in the USA." --- Ihcoyc

I take on board what you are saying Ihcoyc. The only reason I was a bit tetchy is because it so commonly is the situation that US writers want to grab the credit for everything, including the signing of the Magna Carta, besides claiming the authorship of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the Epic of Gilgamesh :-). Borges is actually another interesting anomaly btw, half symbolist, half not. user:sjc


anglophone symbolists[edit]

not getting into the poe discussion here, but I scanned the original page and I just wanted to point out that there were English-speaking and -writing Symbolists more or less contemporary with the rest of the European symbolists. Two of them are Canadians, although the Americans like to try and annex them as well: Bliss Carmen and Charles G.D. Roberts (I could have the GD initials wrong but cross reference with animal stories and you'll find the right fellow.)

Astonished. hy

Probably should be added; I've tried to make it clear that although it began as a French movement, it was not exclusively French. Some of the more important writers were Belgians writing in French. I wonder if we have articles yet on Olive Custance, Max Beerbohm, Richard Le Gallienne, or Ernest Dowson; them and the Yellow Book crowd are the names I think of first when considering Symbolist writing in English. Smerdis of Tlön 18:01, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)

The label "Symbolist poets" could/should be changed to "Symbolist writers" or "Symbolist authors." This would allow for the inclusion of Paul Adam, who wrote a few poems, but is better known for his novels. Remy de Gourmont would fit better as he is best known for his prose works. In either case, I would delete Jean Lorrain. He did publish some poems, but is principally a prose writer whose esthetic falls clearly outside of Symbolism.

I know that Lorrain hung out with the same crowd; there's a famous portrait of him painted by I think Fantin-Latour, a Symbolist painter. I would be sceptical that his work is within the mainstream of Symbolism, but poems by him appear in several Symbolist anthologies, including Delvaille's and the Houston's. Smerdis of Tlön 18:01, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)

It may be a good idea to separate Symbolism in the arts and Symbolism as a literary movement. The two overlap in some ways but are different in many others. For example, the statement about Symbolist works having "a sense of the malign power of sexuality" doesn't hold for the literary movement.

Symbolism in literature is esthetically closer to many aspects of neoimpressionism than Symbolist painting.

Oscar Wilde's Salome doesn't convey a sense of the malign power of sexuality? DionysosProteus (talk) 23:47, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

Delvaille's anthology is problematic to say the least. The scholarship of the preface leaves a good bit to be desired. Although Delvaille indicates the fluid nature of what Symbolism is, I don't believe he actually defines what it is. (Perhaps I missed something.)

Baudelaire is not a Symbolist. He provided the foundation for the esthetic and is the main precursor. Lautreamont is not a Symbolist. He too may have had some influence on the movement, but that is debatable. Jean Lorrain did hang out with some of the Symbolists, but, to my knowledge, never considered himself a Symbolist nor was he considered a Symbolist by the Symbolists. Renée Vivien can be said to be influenced by Symbolism (as the article on her judiciously states), but was not part of the movement.

In literature, it can be helpful to distinguish between a Symbolism as an esthetic and as a movement. The movement "formally" begins with Moréas' manifesto in 1886. The esthetic is formulated in part by Baudelaire in the 1850s. There are many writers who are not part of the movement, but who are influenced by the esthetic. I think that Vivien would best fit in such a category.

No literary movement has exact limits. This is certainly true for Symbolism. However, a critical consensus does exist about many authors. Many of Delvaille's judgments lie outside of this consensus. It would be preferable for a general article such as this to have it correspond as much as possible to mainstream understandings of Symbolism.

Symbolism in theatre[edit]

This article seems to cover the literature of the symbolists, but I would like to know why the theatre aspect hasn't been treated in this artical. I am talking about theatre directors, theatres dedicated to giving symbolist plays, symbolist performances, and symbolist "theatre language", not so much the theatre authors. I know this was a very small chapter of history, consisted of private theatres that met with failure, and yet for theatre students it's a chapter to be taken to consideration. Is there any reason why this aspect hasn't been included in this article?

Lack of information? I don't know a great deal about Symbolist theatre, apart from Pelleas et Melisande and Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's Axel. FWIW, his article is also a pitiful sub-stub. Smerdis of Tlön 02:03, 6 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I'll see what I can do about it seeing I've been studying symbolisme in theatre.

Symbolism is a major part of twentieth-century theatre; not just Maurice Maeterlinck, Oscar Wilde's Salome, or Yeats's plays, but Edward Gordon Craig many, many Russians. It's a major part of Constantin Stanislavski's development, and you could trace the origin of his 'system to the inner-directed influence of his experiments with Symbolist staging. Vsevolod Meyerhold developed Symbolist theatre before he turned to constructivism. This section needs much more development and probably ought to spawn its own article. Added to the to-do list, but might be a while. DionysosProteus 23:13, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Modernism template[edit]

I've added a template feel free to add new articles to it. Stirling Newberry 00:33, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Michael Jackson?[edit]

As example of symbolism's influence on contemporary mass culture, it should be noted that prominent postmodern artist Michael Jackson, who named Claude Debussy as one of the sources of his inspiration, composed works that have traits of symbolism and impressionism (for example, Stranger In Moscow, 1995).

I moved this to talk, because I suspect it's original research. The claim that Jackson claims to have been influenced by Debussy is something I'd like to see some kind of source for; as is Jackson's relationship with "postmodernism", whatever that meant.

Jackson's life strikes me ans being decadent, surreal, and full of odd twists; I'm not entirely closed-minded about some kind of referenced allusion to Jackson in the article. He does strike me like someone that Oscar Wilde should have written a novel about. If Jackson belongs at all, he probably ought to appear in the Aftermath section. Mass culture that relates to Symbolism in a more sure-footed way would include the recordings of Patti Smith, who's still going on about Rimbaud; and the goth movement might be an echo of some aspects of Symbolism. Smerdis of Tlön 23:11, 30 December 2005 (UTC)

Proposed merger from Symbolist painters[edit]

I have think that the Symbolist painters page is redundant. At one time, this article was focused exclusively on Symbolism as a movement in poetry; it has expanded to compass Symbolist theatre, Symbolist influence in music, and as such I tend to feel that having the Symbolist painters as a separate article is no longer strictly necessary, especially given that the Symbolist painters, like the poets, are often identified simply as "Symbolists."

Unless anyone has strong objections I propose to merge and redirect them. Smerdis of Tlön 15:45, 19 June 2006 (UTC)

Good job, Ihcoyc: a wise merge, to bring to bear in one article all the media through which symbolism was manifest. --Wetman 16:31, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Symbolism's presentation[edit]

The way symbolism is presented in this article may have to be adjusted. I'm thinking of a perspective that is more chronological, rather than after-the-fact. I find this chronological perspective in works such as Arnold Hauser's The Social History of Art. Quote:

"After 1890 the word "decadence" loses its suggestive note and people begin to speak of "symbolism" as the leading artistic trend. Moreas introduces the term and defines it as the attempt to replace reality in poetry by the "idea" (Le Figaro, 18th September 1886). The new terminology is in accordance with Mallarme's victory over Verlaine and the shift of emphasis from sensualistic impressionism to spiritualism."

I think such a chronological treatment would be better, emphasizing for example that many of these poets (Baudelaire, Nerval, Rimbaud, early Verlaine etc.) were writing before any such "symbolist movement" existed. Rimbaud was essentially appropriated by the Symbolists. A is putting the smack down (talk) 07:19, 2 November 2008 (UTC)

Influence on literary surrealism and beat[edit]

I was planning on adding something about Symbolism's impact on the Beat Generation especially Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. I wanted to get a good source first, just ran out of time, so I figured I'd post it here in case there are any objections before, as is often the case, somebody erases it without explanation. Also, and probably more significantly, I wanted to put something in about literary surrealism. There's a mention of surrealism in the visual arts, but, as anyone beyond a casual observer should know, surrealism started as a literary movement very heavily influenced by symbolism. Symbolism is, arguably, the movement most directly labeled as an influence on surrealism by Andre Breton -- especially if you add in Jarry and Lautreamont (though I didn't personally think of them as being symbolists, but I won't argue). The phrasing of the section where surrealism in the visual arts is mentioned doesn't lend itself easily to re-editing. I would think putting surrealism with modernism would make sense but modernism is separated from visual arts by big chunks about symbolism's impact on other countries. I would suggest putting the visual arts section right after the modernism section, but then it's splitting up the lit. Any suggestions for how to more logically reorganize this so that we can include literary surrealism (which I would argue is one of the most significant ommissions from the page).F. Simon Grant (talk) 16:55, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

Why is this not just allegory?[edit]

I think this article could be considerably improved by adding an explanation of why symbolism in literature (I'm only interested in prose) is not just another name for allegory - the representation of an abstract idea, principle or concept by a character, figure or event in a narrative. How does Symbolism differ from that? Cottonshirtτ 12:11, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

This article cannot be reached from any place except a link...[edit]

This article cannot be reached from any place except a link that happens to be somewhere else in Wikipedia. That is because the parentheses used in the title are not compatible with browsers (Firefox and Chrome) and cannot be interpreted by PmWiki, and possibly other wiki engines and blogs. Please remove the unnecessary parentheses that make this good article inaccessible. Redirects from other formulations; such as, Symbolism Arts, or Symbolism Painting, would also do the same job. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jagtig (talkcontribs) 18:01, 21 January 2017 (UTC)

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