Submitted by Jim Aune on July 17, 2006 - 3:44am
One good thing about blogging is that it gives one something to do at 3 a.m. when you can't get back to sleep, and the world is in chaos. First a Wikipedia definition:
--A poète maudit (French: accursed poet) is a poet living a life outside or against society. Abuse of drugs and alcohol, insanity, crime, violence, and in general any societal sin, often resulting in an early death are typical elements of the biography of a poète maudit. The first poète maudit, and its prototype, was François Villon (1431-c. 1474) but the phrase wasn't coined until the beginning of the 19th century by Alfred de Vigny in his 1832 drama Stello, in which he calls the poet “la race toujours maudit par les puissants de la terre.” Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud are considered typical examples.--
What I have come to find puzzling over the last ten years (it hit me with a vengeance the year I taught at Penn State), is the peculiar combination of academic careerism and the--er--"valorization" of a poete maudit's style of life. Examples: Foucault's "limit experience" being hit by a car while on opium, Bataille's pornography, Deleuze's death (once praised to me by a graduate student), Nietzsche's madness. 1960's versions: the breakdowns, addictions, and suicides of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell, John Berryman--the whole "confessional" school of American poetry. And the "popular" culture of the Velvet Underground, the Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, and on and on. For a young person of a certain temperament, this sort of thing is worse than crack.
It's not an ideology, because it is almost empty of argument--maybe "structure of feeling" is a better term. It has recurred steadily since the industrial revolution (Benjamin's "shock effects," I guess, as an aesthetic of coping with urban life). In its academic form: "a focus on the garbage of history," as Grossberg put it in at NCA last fall. It has developed into a particular--nod here to Hariman, il miglior fabbro--academic style.