|The Structure of Modernist Poetry
London and Canberra : Croom Helm, 1982
264 pages. ISBN 0 7099 0002 3
Mallarme's Language: Transposition, Structure
Ezra Pound: Image, Vortex, Ideogram
Max Jacob: Style, Situation
Pierre Reverdy: The Poem as Object
Georg Trakl: Existential Conception and Semantic Ambience
From the reviews:
Hermans begins each of his chapters with a rigorous and exacting examination of the poetics within which the poets in question worked, and only with Trakl (arguably the least obliging in this regard) does this potentially dry but extremely illuminating method show signs of strain. He then proceeds to offer readings of key poems, patiently elaborating upon their consonance or otherwise with the aesthetic position adumbrated in more discursive modes. There are, of course, other books which will do this where Mallarmé, Apollinaire and Pound are concerned, and which will cover a wider area in so doing, but the economy, restraint and precision of the expositions make them models of their kind. And Trakl, Reverdy and Jacob (especially the latter) are in every sense rarer birds, and will only respond well to these unsung virtues.
An ambichronic typological analysis of the relation between the Idealism of Symbolism and the essentially metonymical, yet reassuringly asyncretic series of Modernism. Based on Mallarmé, Apollinaire, Pound, Jacob, Reverdy and Trakl, each of whom has a chapter to himself, the study avoids both primitive inductivism and naive empiricism to spectacularly burst the parameters of conventional hermeneutic-textual ergonomics and impose itself as essential reading for the swelling body of those concerned with a paradigmatic topology of rupture.
The book can be recommended only to those who are already very knowledgeable in the field of modern poetry. They will gain, if not without some struggle, genuine illumination.
Here is a book which with exemplary intellectual clarity and precision grasps a subject which is not only difficult in itself but also treats that subject in the light of the most advanced literary and linguistic criticism that operates in Britain and Europe today. Few, if any, such works combine rigour and lucidity to this degree.
One of the values of The Structure of Modernist Poetry is the number of further questions its persuasively presented thesis also raises. In his conclusion, the author is rightly aware of the danger of suggesting too homogeneous a picture of Modernism, even if the ‘rupture with the Symbolist ‘genotype’’ can be identified as a major reorientation in the work of certain Modernist poets.
Theo Hermans’s The Structure of Modernist Poetry offers a new and challenging perspective on ‘modernist’ poetic writing in England , France and Germany . His study focuses on five near-contemporary poets: Apollinaire, Pound, Reverdy, Jacob and Trakl, concentrating for the most part on literary and critical work written between 1908 and 1918. (…) The peculiar distinction of Hermans’s study lies in the total professionalism with which he approaches literary analysis. He has a formidable grasp of the underlying structural principles involved in poetics, aesthetics, stylistics and literary semantics, and his descriptive technique is exemplary in its lucidity, economy and precision.
Last updated 11 April 2006 by Theo Hermans.