Seen by many as the group which links their romantic precursors with their surrealist successors, the fin-de-siècle French poets who critics call symbolists were undeniably influential. Their structures and conceits are built upon grand, illogical, intuitive associations. The “symbols” for which they are named are emblems of the actual world–as opposed to the purely emotional world which dominates their work–that accumulate supernatural significance in the absence of a clear narrative or location.
Charles Baudelaire is perhaps the most influential of the symbolists. His monumental collection Les fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil) was published in 1857. The book’s dark, introspective, multifarious worlds revealed subjects and styles that had been previously barred from poetic inclusion, and for this reason Baudelaire was alternately celebrated and condemned as a heretical and even obscene innovator.
Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Verlaine, and Arthur Rimbaud were followers and friends of Baudelaire, and Mallarmé termed their group The Decadents. Indeed, they lived tumultuous, bohemian lives, and the affair between Verlaine and Rimbaud has been the source of many legends and dramatizations.
Of the group, Verlaine received the most recognition for his work during his lifetime and, despite his erratic and even criminal behavior, he was elected “Prince of Poets” by the review La Plume shortly before his death. Though he strove to make his poetry one of intensity and extremity, his form was almost classical in its control and musicality.
Rimbaud is a rare poetic figure in that he stopped writing at the age of 21. His work, however, remains a passionate, visionary body that is continually and widely read. Though they received little public recognition until after his death, Une saison en enfer (A Season in Hell) and Illuminations became models for poets striving to make visible the tormented soul.
Though Mallarmé’s work was initially met with hostility for its difficulty and obscurity, his experimental work and his intricate theories eventually made him a favorite for twentieth-century writers and readers. Thanks to his disavowal of tradition, his unconventional syntax, his indirect expression, and his resistance to criticism, adventurous writers continue to extend his methods into contemporary poetics.
Paul Valéry is also considered one of the most important symbolist thinkers, though he might be more accurately described as a pivotal figure between many poetic schools. His work built upon the work of the writers mentioned above, and eventually became a foundation for twentieth-century modernists and structuralists.
Seminar 1 – Semiotics
Seminar 2 – Links Between Disciplines
German Expressionist Films
German expressionist films were prevalent in the 1920s. Amongst the most well remembered are films such as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Weiner, 1920), Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922), Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927) and Sunrise (F.W. Murnau, 1927). These films were united by highly stylized visuals, strange asymmetrical camera angles, atmospheric lighting and harsh contrasts between dark and light. Shadows and silhouettes were an important feature of expressionism, to the extent that they were actually painted on to the sets in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.
The story lines of German expressionist films matched the visuals in terms of darkness and disillusionment. Often sombre in mood and featuring characters from a corrupt underworld of crime, the films’ dramatic effects produced motifs of claustrophobia and paranoia. The same words could be used to describe 1940s Hollywood film noir, a genre hugely influenced by German expressionism. Film noir is typified by Bogart and Bacall in films such as The Big Sleep. Fritz Lang himself also went on to make notable film noirs such as Fury and You Only Live Once.
Seminar 3 – Freud
ZEITGEIST – The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time. For example, the Zeitgeist of modernism typified and influenced architecture, art, and fashion during much of the 20th century.
CAFE SOCIETY – Who? The ‘café society’: a group of socialites, patrons and artists who frequented fashionable restaurants, night-clubs and resorts in Paris, London, New York and the Cote d’Azur.
What? A glamorous peer into the extravagant lifestyles of the Parisian café society habitués and frequenters, from 1920 – 1960. Generously illustrated with many never-before-seen images, the eponymously named book takes a thoroughly documented glimpse into their houses, villas, yachts, parties, clubs, polo fields, and photo albums.
Why? The members of this sophisticated and avante-garde set – which included the likes of The Windsors, Mona Bismarck, Cecil Beaton, Yves Saint Laurent, Elsa Schiaparelli, Diane Vreeland and Lee Miller – spurred creativity in style and fashion and their influence is still profound today.
Vienna was a café society, in which small groups gathered for discussion at their favourite watering holes.
This led to the rapid circulation of ideas and encouraged an interdisciplinary approach. The circle to which the painter Oskar Kokoschka belonged, for instance, formed around Adolf Loos, and included Peter Altenberg and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Loos was the first to recognise Kokoschka’s genius, not only soliciting commissions but paying the artist out of his own pocket when a sitter refused to buy his or her likeness, as was often the case.
SEMINAL – Highly influential, especially in some original way, and providing a basis for future development or research.
Seminar 4 – Weimar Republic
Despite how bad the economy was doing, there was fertile ground for the modern arts and sciences in history. Berlin, in particular, was thriving for new art movements (expressionism).
BAUHAUS (reflection of Modernism from First year) – Architecture > theatre/cinema (Thomas and Heinrich Mann / Bertolt Brecht, world famous writers).
Cabaret became popular from Weimar Germany (Marlene Dietrich).
The Vienna Secession
the golden age of illustration and graphic design in Germany and Vienna between the years 1895-1920. At the forefront is the contribution to the graphic arts made the by the Vienna Secession (1897-1905) a group of Austrian artists which included Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann who broke away from the status quo and created what has come to be known as ‘Secession style’.
Attention is also given to the counterpart Art Nouveau movement in France, Belgium, and Holland and artists like Alphonse Mucha, Henry Van de Velde, and Fernand Khnopff whose influence played an important part in the development of German and Austrian graphic art.