SUSAN JUDITH ALSWANG, Fordham University


On reading the critics, the author was struck by their failure to envisage the problem from the point of view defended in this study, arrived at from a close reading of Leconte de Lisle. Universally they consider him to be impassible, a pessimist. To what extent are these accusations true? The interpretations here presented, as opposed to the critics' claim of objectivity and "Art for Art's Sake" in Leconte's works, underline not only the expression of the poet's personal experience of alienation but point to his seeking a solution to the problems, a type of alienation he deliberately chose. For an understanding of the first type of alienation it is necessary to interpret it as a three-pronged alienation--from God, family and society. Only when a divorce from the roots that normally tie a human being to his condition is effected does Leconte de Lisle seek out a solution which should provide him with a source of comfort but which in the end effects its own genre of alienation. Moreover, in the very remedy he seeks, he employs tactics that in themselves separate him even more effectively from mankind. The author recognizes at the same time that each critic made his own perspicacious contribution to an understanding of the poet, and makes use of their insights. It is obvious, however, that ultimately, it is the poet's own words which must be the basis of any solid conclusions.^ The major critics cited are: Dornis, Esteve, Falshaw, Lebrond, Pich, Putter, Vianey and Zyromski. For example, Dornis, Pich and Putter provide an understanding of the social milieu that produced Leconte de Lisle. They describe his attempts to derive solace from activities which his contemporaries enjoyed. Involvement in politics and dabbling in Fourierism only aggravated and deepened his desire to attain what he came to identify with Nirvana which is in itself the ultimate of alienation. Neither in religion nor in the sciences of the day did he find what he sought. Gradually he reached the point where the ideal became the elimination of every contact of the reality that he found so treacherous, deceptive and elusive. Through a juxtaposition of the internal evidence of the poet's own writings with the observations of various critics, this initial intuition, that the man was indeed a poet of alienation on two counts is proved to be valid. Moreover, Leconte's alienation is shown to be analogous to the plight of the twentieth-century alienated man. The basic thesis is defened essentially through reliance on the poet's works and its conclusions are drawn from the insights they afforded.^ The study gives credit to the works of other researchers when their opinions cast light on the poetry of Leconte de Lisle, but its primary contribution is in the poet's journey from this threefold experience of alienation, through his positive efforts to overcome it, and in the end, to his plunging into the alienation from which he had attempted to extricate himself. The thesis concludes by enumerating the concrete solutions Leconte envisaged, with varying degrees of success, to the problems which plagued him. ^

Subject Area

Romance literature

Recommended Citation

ALSWANG, SUSAN JUDITH, "LECONTE DE LISLE: POET OF ALIENATION" (1980). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8020050.