Stéphane Mallarmé

Mallarmé, Stéphane (stāfänˈ mälärmāˈ) [key], 1842–98, French poet. Mallarmé's great importance is as the chief forebear of the symbolists; many poets and other writers of the mid-1880s drew inspiration at the Tuesday evening gatherings where Mallarmé expounded his theories. He held that the poet should express the ideas of a transcendental world, that poetry should evoke thoughts through suggestion rather than description, and that it should approach the abstraction of music. Mallarmé's language defies traditional syntax and is frequently so obscure that it must be read with commentary. His best-known poems are Hérodiade (1869), L'Après-Midi d'un faune (1876; The Afternoon of a Faun ), which inspired a composition by Debussy, and Un Coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard (1897; A Throw of the Dice Will Never Eliminate Chance ). Editions of Mallarmé's poetry were published in 1887 and 1899, and a selection of prose, Divagations, in 1897. Mallarmé earned his living by teaching English. The influence of his poetry was particularly felt by Valéry.

See selected letters, ed. and tr. by R. Lloyd (1988); biography by A. France (1967); studies by T. A. Williams (1970), D. H. Morris (1977), M. Bowie (1982), L. W. Marvick (1986), and G. Robb (1996).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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