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Shaking down the Pillars: Lamentation, Purity, and Mallarmé's "Hommage" to Wagner

Rebecca Saunders
PMLA
Vol. 111, No. 5 (Oct., 1996), pp. 1106-1120
DOI: 10.2307/463153
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/463153
Page Count: 15
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Shaking down the Pillars: Lamentation, Purity, and Mallarmé's "Hommage" to Wagner
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Abstract

Mallarmé constructs a "crisis of verse" that mimes the circumstances of loss and the moment of lamentation to produce his celebrated poetic purity. Indeed, he constructs this purity out of the materials of ritual and philosophical defilement: not only does his poetic theory valorize death and danger, but his poetic practice largely relies on contact with the foreign, on semantic contagion, and on ambiguity. The significance of this defilement spreads in multiple directions: it is instrumental in producing newness and in mediating Mallarmé's professional rivalry with Wagner, it bears witness to the domestic crisis of the Third Republic, and it functions as a form of resistance to cultural assimilation. Moreover, because defilement is at once material and symbolic and because that "symbolism" is an obstinately obscure mode of referentiality, Mallarmé's cultivation of defilement is a recuperation of the scapegoats that "pure" philosophy necessarily exiles: the material and the hyperessential.

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