Mallarmé's Cinepoetics: The Poem Uncoiled by the Cinématographe, 1893-98

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 Mallarmé's Cinepoetics: The Poem Uncoiled by the Cinématographe, 1893-98


CHRISTOPHE WALL-ROMANA is completing a dissertation, entitled "French Cinepoetry: Unmaking and Remaking the Poem in the Age of Cinema," in the Department  of French at the University of California, Berkeley. His work has appeared in le courrier du Centre tnternational d'Études Poétiques, Sites, Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd'hui, and French Studies Bu/letin. He has translated works by John Berger, Norbert Wiener, and Philip K. Dick into French. His projects include editing a collection on literary criticism reconsidered through movingi mage media and studies on French impressionist cinema and on televisual culture in new writing in French.



Opened commercially in Paris.1 As expected, the new spectacle of animated photography projected by the reversible Lumiere camera proved perceptually entrancing and thus financially enticing. A journalist taken by black-and-white footage of "[la] mer .. . si remuante" '[the] sea ... so agitated' wrote that he saw it "colorée" 'in color' (Rittaud-Hutinet and Rittaud-Hutinet 350). Georges Mélies and two other spectators each tried to buy the Cinématographe on the spot.

A month later, on 27 January 1896, seemingly unconnected to this event, Stéphane Mallarmé could be found nailing up electoral posters in the editorial offices of poetry journals, in literary cafés, and at the Odéon theater. His friend Paul Verlaine had died on 8 January, leaving the honorific position of Prince of Poets vacant. Although this title had always been bestowed by acclamation, the circle of Parisian poets to which they belonged decided-in support of the "Third Republic of Letters" (Compagnon)-to stage an election instead. The platform posted by the front-runner, Mallarmé, began:

Poetes, D'un geste, se corn;:oit, a l'heure-ou prestige matériel évanoui, hélas!en lumiere pure se résout le fantóme humain, autrefois levé sur le pavois, de l'aede désigné quel, d'une présence réclamée des lors, doit primer dans le respect et l'admiration, son front barré des unanimes palmes. (Mondor, Vie 723)

Poets, By a gesture, it may be conceived, at this hour-when, material prestige having vanished, alas!-in pure light is resolved the human ghost, formerly lifted on the shield, of the designated bard who, his presence thereupon called for, must prevail in respect and admiration, his forehead lined with unanimous palms.

The translation is approximate because Mallarmé makes a show of his elliptical writing, in which clauses can be arranged in several configurations to allow for what he called "la compréhension multiple" (Oeuvres (1945] 283). By leaving it up to the reader toparse the text, ironically in this case the electoral program, Mallarmé intimates that virtual syntax- his poetic signature, that alone on which he should "prevail"-is coextensive with the reader. He thus defines bis poetic economy notas the prívate property of a prince (e.g., the pavois used to hoist a new Frank king), but as res publica, public worth acknowledged by the republican award of palms.2

What informs this subtext of poetic suffrage is the virulent attack launched against the symbolists around Mallarmé in 1895-96 for their alleged obscurity, degeneration, and decadent artificiality. Such accusations were issued from various quarters by the likes of Lev Tolstoy, young Marcel Proust (a Mallarmé admirer nonetheless), and life-force enthusiasts who partially read or misread Friedrich Nietzsche, Walt Whitman, and Henri Bergson (Décaudin 29-57). Opposing what they perceived as elitist decadence, they loudly propounded an optimistic and populist vitalism. Mallarmé bridges this aesthetico-political divide in the platform's most arresting image, "in pure light is resolved the human ghost.

" The "pure light," I argue, is not only a metaphor for the soul but a multiple formulation referring also to the new age of cinema. While clearly pointing to the afterlife ofVerlaine, Mallarmé also wants to speak more generally of the "human," a term that was now in need of redefinition. The two journalists present at the 28 December inaugural projection emphasized how film pushes back the boundary of death. "C'est la vie meme, c'est le mouvement pris sur le vif' 'It is life itself; it is motion recorded in the quick'; "la mort cessera d'etre absolue .. . la vie laissera une marque indélébile" 'death will cease to be absolute ... life will leave an indelible trace'; "on reproduit la vie" 'life is reproduced,' they exulted (Rittaud-Hutinet and RittaudHutinet 349-50). Their excitement sprang from the same realization Mallarmé insists on, that the "material prestige" of reality is now supplemented by film. Quite suddenly, lifelike, animated projections rendered human life posthuman.3 Cinema thereby implemented the lifelong obsession of Mallarmé's two masters, Edgar Allan Poe and Villiers de l'Isle-Adam: the dissolution of the material barrier between life and death. Moreover, cinema enacted modernity's resolve to embrace technology, and as a new mediation between artífice and life it presented an unexpected solution to symbolism's resistance to mimesis.4

This essay documents the claim that Mallarmé, a keener observer of the technosocial field than he has been given credit for,5 wrote or planned experimental poems as cinematic sublations of the page and the book, both in Un coup de dés (1897), one long strip of visually montaged text, and in the project around the notes for Le Livre (1895-), a commercial reading performance using electrical projections. This statement may appear paradoxical: Mallarmé, the absolutist of pure verse, seeking a prosthesis for poem, page, and book? Putting aside this absolutist myth, cogently debunked by Henri Meschonnic, we may bring to bear on the discussion the two poles of specularity at play in Mallarmé, according to Leo Bersani. One pole is synoptic immobility, as a Hegelian and orphic summation of the world; the other engages the flowing present of desire in the "mobility of its images" (Bersani 11), as in La derniere mode, the fashion magazine written by Mallarmé in 1874 (Oeuvres (1945] 705-847). This dualism betrays not so much a highbrowlowbrow dialectic as the quest for a capacious and synthetic work that combines "la compréhension multiple" and a direct engagement with material experience. With the advent of free verse in the mid-1880s, new rhythmic and visual patterns on the page tended to foreground the corporeal, spatial, and temporal immediacy of the poem.6 Cinema may have evoked for Mallarmé a potential integration of the artwork with sensorial experience and performance, across page (2-D), folio (3-D), and reading time (4-D).7 In his single reference to cinema, Mallarmé characterized this principie of integration as "déroulement" -unfolding, uncoiling, unreeling, or unscrolling: a new topology for text and images.

After a detailed analysis of Mallarmé's cinema-like poetics, I briefly look at Walter Benjamin's "moving script" and Jacques Derrida's "spacing," both of which come tantalizingly close to a cinematic reading of Un coup de dés. In conclusion, I point to the large corpus of experimental writings permeated by the film apparatus (among canonical and noncanonical poets), at a tangent to organized groups and avant-garde aesthetics. This corpus is sufficiently extended and diverse to warrant the name of cinepoetry.

Mallarmé and Early Cinema

Much has been written about Mallarmé's fascination for the stage (dance, theater, mime; see Shaw), and recent work in early film studies suggests that we may place his interest squarely in the heuristic perspective of precinema. Precinema refers to the devices and epistemological conditions of postphotographic vision and motion research that converged with mass media expectations between 1870 and 1900, resulting in new products, practices, and spectacles as diverse as international fairs, Richard Wagner's operatic light shows, comic strips, moving dioramas, and celluloid and short-exposure film stock (Schwartz; Mannoni, Great Art 320-415). Loïc Fuller's "serpentine dance," after 1892, exemplifies precinema for our purposes, since her choreographic innovations play an important role in Mallarmé's theorizing poetry as cinematic (Shaw 52-68; McCarren 113-71). Her dancing, imitated in early films, has recently been placed at the juncture of precinema and early cinema (Iampolski; Gunning, "Loïc Fuller" and "New Thresholds"; Lista 638-48 [filmography]).

Mallarmé learned of cinema from an 1893 article about Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope. On 8 May, Le Fígaro ran on the front page "Une visite chez Edison" 'Visiting Edison's Laboratory,' the earliest account of a picture show in a leading French newspaper. The author, Octave Uzanne, recounts how, "sans voix, sans expression possible, presque sans croyances" 'voiceless, incapable of the slightest expression, in sheer disbelief,' he viewed the short movie of a Tyrolian male dancer through the peephole of a Kinetoscope box (with a rotating cylinder). Uzanne adds that these shots "reproduisent, avec toute l'expression de la vie et de l'accélération du mouvement, le geste humain méthodiquement enregistré" 'reproduce, with all the expression of life and the acceleration of movement, the human gesture methodically recorded.' We can be sure Mallarmé read this article, for three reasons. First, he was a regular subscriber and contributor to Le Fígaro, the main center-left, prosymbolist, and, later, Dreyfusard newspaper. Second, Uzanne was a correspondent and close friend ofMallarmé's; along with Octave Mirbeau and Édouard Manet, both men attended small mysterious "diners de l'occulte" 'dinners of the occult' held in 1890 (Mallarmé, Correspondance 4: 94). Third, and crucially, Edison's laboratory is the locus of Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's symbolist novel-manifesto L'Eve future (1886), in which Edison uses chemistry, chronophotography, and a "quatrieme état de la «Matíere», l' état radiant" 'fourth state of "Matter," the radiant state' (307) to instill life in a female automaton (or cyborg).8 Villiers, who died in 1889, was among Mallarmé's and also Uzanne's closest friends and inspirers; Mallarmé and Uzanne exchanged letters about the welfare of Villiers's widow.

Uzanne could hardly have visited Edison's laboratory without thinking of Villiers; he probably made the visit because Villiers's fiction was about to become reality. Around the time of his 1893 trip to New Jersey, Uzanne may have discussed this invention with Mallarmé, who would have begun thinking about how the cinema to come would affect literature; Uzanne quotes Edison's correct estímate that production was "dix-huit mois a deux ans" 'eighteen months to two years' away. With Verlaine's death so close on the heels of the inauguration of the Cinématographe, Villiers's poetic prefiguration of cinema may have assumed a new relevance for Mallarmé. Uzanne's shock at the cinematic "human gesture" may be directly cited in the "gesture" that opens Mallarmé's declaration that the "human ghost" is transubstantiated into "pure light."

Cinema's transition from peephole (Kinetoscope) to screen projection took shape the following year, in 1894. In November, articles in La nature and Le monde illustré indicated Edison's plan to use "un grand écran blanc" 'a large white screen' with "un appareil de projection" 'a projection apparatus' and even "un phonographe" 'a phonograph' (Meusy 20). Émile Reynaud, the inventor of the Praxinoscope in 1877, pioneered the electrical projection of hand-drawn, painted, and animated images on the back of a transparent screen at the Musée Grévin in October 1892. In November 1894, Arthur Meyer, the owner of the Musée Grévin and the newspaper Le gaulois, asked Reynaud to start using "des projections de la photographie instantanée" 'instantaneous photography projections' (Meusy 39). Mallarmé met Meyer in December 1895 at the latest (Mallarmé, Correspondance 7: 311-12; 8: 140, 145), and Meyer may have told him of Reynaud's animated projections such as Pauvre Pierrot-a figure dear to Mallarmé (see "Mimique" [Oeuvres (1945) 310]). In August 1894, a poem by Henri de Régnier, a close friend and disciple of Mallarmé's, was staged by Aurélien Lugné-Poe at the Théatre de l'ffiuvre, with "fantocini" 'ghosts' moving "derriere un voile de gaze" 'behind a veil of gauze' and "mimant les paroles prononcées par les acteurs" 'mimicking the words pronounced by actors' ("Théatre" 381). encounter of poetry and screen may be the earliest attempt to remediate the poem with the cinematic apparatus, if shadow puppetry is not the sole influence.9

Mallarmé and cinema cross paths on 23 April 1896, three months after his election as Prince of Poets. The back page of Le Fígaro of that day reads, "Grand succes hier, au Théatre Mondain, pour Stéphane Mallarmé et pour Charles Morice. Dans sa série: Les Poetes framçais, Charles Morice donnait une lecture consacrée au nouveau «Prince des Poetes»" 'Great success yesterday, at the Théatre Mondain, for Stéphane Mallarmé and Charles Morice. In his series French Poets, Charles Morice gave a lecture on the new "Prince of Poets."' Four paragraphs la ter, the author of the column, Jules Huret, writes that the "Cinématographe-Lumiere" recorded "de 2 a 6 heures ... plus de douze cents entrées" 'between two and six o'clock . .. over twelve hundred admissions' ("Courrier"). Huret was also a correspondent and close friend of Mallarmé's and the author of an influential literary survey in 1891 that helped define symbolism, in no small part through Mallarmé's transcribed interview (Oeuvres (1945] 866-72). In 1896 Huret gave regular news of the Lumieres' cinema, its expanding venues, and its competitors: the Kinetograph of Mélies, the Isolatographe of the Isola brothers (whose hall Camille Mauclair had tried to rent for a lecture on Mallarmé in 1893 [Mallarmé, Correspondance 6: 37-38]), and others.10 In a May 1896 letter, Mallarmé chides his friend Paul Nadar, the son of Félix Nadar, for overexerting himself (Correspondance 8: 153): on 24 June 1896, Paul Nadar took a patent for a reversible camera whose prototype he had been f everishly constructing.11

We have no direct evidence that Mallarmé ever went to the movies, although the cinematic inspiration behind Un coup de dés, this poem of a radically new genre begun in earnest in 1896, strongly invites us to think he did.12 A work without precedent-the hallmark of radical modernist experimentalism- it was published in April 1897, in the new trilingual journal Cosmopolis. In late April and early May, severa} notices about Cosmopolis and Mallarmé's poem carne out in the press, 13 including one in Le journal on 4 May 1897 (Marchal 447-52)-a fateful day in the history of early cinema.

On that day, the film projector in a tent of the Bazar de la Charité ignited into a fireball, killing 128 spectators in a few minutes, mostly women ofhigh society (Meusy 53- 62). Commentators wondered whether this disaster would bring about the end of cinema. Indeed, sales plummeted, but in part they did because programs stayed the same too long (60). Between 5 May and 14 May, Mallarmé wrote two sets ofletters: to severa} friends (Jean-Fran~ois Raffaelli, José-Maria de Heredia, Régnier) whose wives or daughters were injured in the fire14 and to journalists and friends who reacted to and publicized Un coup de dés (Paul Mégnin, André Gide). The poem was then being printed by Didot for the edition planned by the publisher Vollard. On 10 June, Mallarmé wrote two more letters, to his disciples Régnier and Robert de Montesquiou, who fought a duel over false (and homophobic) allegations that Montesquiou had escaped the fire by wielding his cane ( Correspondance 9: 224-25).

On 31 June 1897, on the heels of this loaded intertwining of cinema with his private and literary life, Mallarmé wrote his sole statement on cinema. In response to a survey by André Ibels asking prominent writers whether they favored illustrating books with photography, Mallarmé answered:

Je suis pour-aucune illustration, tout ce qu' évoque un livre devant se passer dans l'esprit du lecteur; mais, si vous [employez] la photographie, que n'allez-vous droit au cinématographe, dont le déroulement remplacera, images et texte, maint volume, avantageusement.15

I am in favor of-no illustration, since ali that a book evokes must take place in the reader's mind; but, if you [use] photography, why not go straight to the cinematograph, whose unreeling [unfolding] will replace, images and text, many a volume, advantageously.

Alone among the twenty-four writers surveyed (including Émile Zola, Rachilde, Georges Rodenbach, Uzanne), Mallarmé mentions cinema-then certainly at its most unpopular. Ibels finds this mention sufficiently noteworthy in the 1898 introduction to the published survey to draw a pointed comparison between the "cinématographe" and "le Livre" 'the Book' (101).16

The term déroulement denotes the temporal unfolding of events, as well as a mechanical operation of circular unrolling. This dual denotation, abstract and concrete, temporal and technological, is crucial for Mallarmé's cinepoetics. 17 The Cosmopolis editor's preface to Un coup de dés, actually written by Mallarmé, informs the reader, "Une espece de leitmotiv général qui se déroule constitue l'unité du poeme: des motifs accessoires viennent se grouper autour de lui" 'A sort of general leitmotiv that unfolds constitutes the poem's unity: accessory motifs are grouped around it' (Oeuvres [1998] 392). In directly pitting cinematic "unfolding" against Wagner's cultic exploitation of the leitmotiv ("Richard Wagner" [Oeuvres (1945) 541, 546]), Mallarmé appeals to the fin de siecle epistemology of déroulement as a new dimension of multiplicity and virtuality for his poetics.

Unfolding, Unfurling, Uncoiling,

Unrolling, Unreeling, Unscrolling

The terms in French equivalent to those in the heading-déroulement, dépliement, déploiement, développement, débobinage-denote centrifugal motion and connote technological advances culminating in the 1890s. Rotational motion is the basic translation of force in rotors and motors of trains, trams, automobiles, and plants powering such electrical devices that implement modernization as the telegraph, cinema, and telephone. As Mary Ann Doane reminds us in The Emergence of Cinematic Time, according to the second law of thermodynamics, entropy (lit. "turn inward") increases with the radiating propagation of equilibrium- that is, the centrifuga} dissipation of energy or the flattening of difference (115-17). Mechanical and theoretical rotation is thus coextensive with modernization and modernist epistemology, binding together a "hybrid network" (Latour 6-11) of relations among

forms of energy: steam, gas combustion,
       electricity, X-ray, human muscle
locomotion and reproduction devices: train,
       phonograph, camera, radio, typewriter,
       bicycle, automobile, cinema, airplane
mechanical motions and patterns: rotation,
       cam ellipsis, spiral, vortex, helix,
       electrical circuitry
psychological and corporeal states: fatigue,
      neurosis, bodily proximity, sexual
      orientation, hypnosis, attention and
      distraction, depression, shock18

The question for Mallarmé's experimental poetics is partly where to locate writing, poetry, and the Book in this new continuum of force, apparatus, form, and affect. Friedrich Kittler's Gramophone, Film, Typewriter demonstrates the broad entanglements of modernist writers with emerging technologies. Mallarmé's technological interests, which Kittler addresses unevenly,19 appear to reach the foundations of poetry and poetics. In ''L'action restreinte" 'Restricted Action' (1895), for instance, Mallarmé muses on whether words could rival the bicycle in satisfying the younger generation's "souci d'extravaguer du corps" 'yearning to evade the body.' He presents the bicycle as an entrancing device offering "la monotonie, certes, d'enrouler, entre les jarrets, sur la chaussée, selon l'instrument en faveur, la fiction d'un éblouissant rail continu" 'the monotony of reeling, between one's calves, on the roadway, according to the instrument in favor, the fiction of a blindingly continuous rail' (Oeuvres [1945] 369). How <loes writing measure up if éblouissant means "blinding" or "mesmerizing" but also "beautiful" and "revealing"? Does the blindness and insight of déroulement create a new sense of continuity? Is not cinematic intermittence just such a fiction of continuity? Can the visual poem's alternating blanks and text mimic, or at least give a sense of, this mesmerizing fiction of continuity? These are Mallarmé's tacit probings.

From various horizons of the 1890s, other precinema thinkers also sought to graphwrite, draw, or trace-this new continuous materiality through the notion of déroulement: Henri Bergson with the analysis of duration, Étienne-Jules Marey with chronophotography, and Loïc Fuller with choreography. Let us briefly examine how each can help us understand Mallarmé's cinematic experimentation.

With Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience (Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness [1889]) and Matiere et mémoire 'Matter and Memory' (1896), Bergson launched a Copernican revolution by exposing qualitative duration as the irreducible ground of any unification of apperception. In the concluding words of the Essai, psychological states "se déroulent dans le temps, ils constituent la durée" 'unfold in time; they constitute duration' (146). The point is that these states are coextensive with one another and dynamic, thus unquantifiable. Rather than nondiscrete concepts, they are intensities akin to "un fil enroulé, comme un ressort" 'a wire coiled up like a spring' (7), a feel more than an image. Later he defined intuition as "comme la tension d'un ressort" 'like the tension of a spring,' in the penultimate sentence of La pensée et le mouvant 'Thought and Mobility' (1432). Kinesthetic coiling and uncoiling inform numerous key notions in Bergson, including the exceptionality ofhuman life in L' évolution créatrice 'Creative Evolution':

(L)a vie apparait globalement comme une onde immense qui se propage a partir d'un centre et qui, sur la presque totalité de sa circonférence, s'arrete et se convertit en oscillation sur place: en un seul point l'obstacle a été forcé, l'impulsion a passé librement. C'est cette liberté qu'enregistre la forme humaine. [L]ife appears on the whole asan immense wave that is propagated from a center and that, on the quasi-totality of its circumference, stops and converts itself into static oscillations: at only one point was the obstacle breached and the impulsion allowed to pass freely through. The human form registers this freedom. (720)

The central intuition of duration as freedom involves a modern (and modernist) primacy of the active present, as temporal synthesis, over the past. Matiere et mémoire indicates this idea painstakingly: 'Torientation meme de notre vie psychologique [est un] véritable déroulement d'états ou nous avons intéret a regarder ce qui se déroule, et non pas ce qui est entierement déroulé" 'the very orientation of our psychological life [is a] veritable unfolding of states amid which our interest focuses on what actually unfolds and not on what is entirely unfolded' (291). The subtle contrast between the present reflexive (se dérouler) of process and agency-the human- and the transitive past (est déroulé) of reified result shows the crucial nuance Bergson invested in the contrastive senses of the word déroulement.

With Marey it is the opposite: he values mechanical process over agency. Marey's 1891 innovation over Eadweard Muybridge's multiple cameras and Pierre Janssen's photographic gun was the use of a continuous filmstrip that recorded, separately but on the same medium and thus with quantifiable time intervals, "une série d'images photographiques pour représenter les phases successives d'un phénomene" 'a series of photographic images representing the successive phases of a phenomenon' (123), his definition of chronophotography. Marey's mechanical talent lay in making compatible two opposite motions of the film. On the one hand, he needed to ensure "la régularité de l'enroulement et du déroulement" 'the regularity of the rolling and unrolling' of the off reel and on reel (137). On the other hand, it was imperative that "la pellicule se déroule d'un mouvement saccadé" 'the film unrolls with an intermittent motion,' so that it stops when taking the shot, moving only in between takes (135). This intermittence allowed not only the stroboscopic recording of motion but also, crucially, its synthesis-that is, its projection in real time. The two-stroke uncoiling of the filmstrip for both recording and projecting is the sine qua non condition for Edison's 1894 Kinetograph and the Lumieres' 1895 Cinématographe (Mannoni, Great Art 320-63, 395).

Marey was motivated by a broader project, according to Frarn;:ois Dagognet's Étienne-Jules Marey: La passion de la trace 'Étienne-Jules Marey: A Passion for Tracing': rendering motion visible and legible-that is, quantifiable (62-73). From graphing blood and pulmonary pressure to finding the precise pattern of horse or human steps or of wing beats in birds or flies, Marey developed apparatuses tracing organic motion, according to a method he theorized in La méthode graphique dans les sciences expérimentales et principalement en physiologie et en médecine 'The Graphic Method in Experimental Sciences 1 2 o. 1 l and Principally in Physiology and Medicine' (1878). Trained as a doctor, he saw corporeal motion as inherently discontinuous, a series of jerks, falls, and breaks of different cadences in 'Tanimal-machine" (Dagognet 37), in direct contrast, according to Dagognet, to vitalists such as Bergson, who insisted on the unanalyzability oflife as élan vital. Dagognet interprets Marey as producing a representation of the neuromotor unconscious, "fait de rythmes, de pulsions sourdes et de flux qui parcourent la machine corporelle ... bref l' écriture automatique de la Nature meme" 'made of rhythms, of inchoate pulsions and fluxes that traverse the corporeal machine . .. in short, the automatic writing of nature itself (102). For Bergson, however, any representation oflife as a discontinuous mechanical process is a simulation and a falsification, especially cinema's chronophotography:

C'est parce que la bande cinématographique se déroule, amenant, tour a tour, les diverses photographies de la scene a se continuer les unes les autres, que chaque acteur de cette scene reconquiert sa mobilité ... . Le procédé a done consisté, en somme, a extraire de tous les mouvements propres a toutes les figures un mouvement impersonnel, abstrait et simple. ... Te! est l'artifice du cinématographe. Et te! est aussi celui de notre connaissance. (753)

Because the cinematographic strip unfolds, causing the different photographs of the scene to prolong one another in succession, each actor in the scene reconquers his or her mobility .... The process thus consists, in short, in extracting from ali the movements that are specific to ali the figures an impersonal motion, abstract and simple .... This is the artífice of the cinematograph. And so too is it that of our cognition.

Neuro-optical synthesis studies having only just begun, Bergson is unable to read cinema as other than a mechanical instance of Zeno's paradox (spatializing movement), thus a false notion of duration invented by our cognition.20

What is intriguing in Marey's and Bergson's use of déroulement is their common failure to stay on either side of the divide between human and mechanical. Bergson discounts cinema's inhuman unreeling only to appeal to the uncoiling of intuition, while Marey, rejecting élan vital, finds the technical inspiration for rolling and unrolling the filmstrip in an ellipsoid cam whose two-stroke motion mimics the human gait, which, since Aristotle's "featherless biped" quip, defines the human. 21 The synthesis of human and mechanical déroulement was achieved or, rather, performed by a third innovator, Loïc Fuller.

Mallarmé saw Fuller's celebrated serpentine dance during the 1892-93 season of the Folies-Bergeres. Hiding her body under oversize robes and veils and using prosthetic arm extenders,22 Fuller invented a dance whose aesthetic pleasure devolves from the dissolution of the human body-and its gait-into pure kinetic patterns of light and color. Mallarmé was fascinated by dance and pantomine, both of them temporal rather than spatial art forms in Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's dichotomy of the arts. Traditionally, poetry was associated with music, thought to be the paradigmatic temporal art. But Mallarmé claimed that the music ofhis time was Wagnerian and that Wagner's operas relied on language and myth deriving from poetry and thus could not representa new paradigm for it. Dance, pantomime, and very early cinema, on the other hand, were wordless arts of time with a potential to renew poetry. Devoid of narration, melodrama, supporting cast, or decor but using complex arrangements of mirrors, electrical lighting, and even a radium-tipped dress, Fuller's dance exemplified in his eyes not just kinesthetic artistry but also the spectacle of the human in the new materiality, what he called "un accomplissement industrie}" 'an industrial accomplishment,' fusing " [des] nuances véloces" 'nuances of velocity' and "passions . .. prismatiques" 'prismatic ... passions' into a "fantasmagorie oxyhydrique" 'oxyhydric phantasmagoria' ("Les fonds dans le ballet" 'Foundations in Ballet' [Oeuvres (1945) 307, 308]).

Already in the 1887 "Crayonné au théatre," Mallarmé had reflected on the projective corporeality of dancing. The dancer, he wrote, retains her "féminine apparence" 'feminine appearance,' while also disappearing into a kind of "impersonnalité" 'impersonality' when embodying the "objet mimé" 'mimed subject matter' of her dance. Between the corporeal woman and the incorporeal mime líes the crux or "point philosophique" 'philosophical point' of the dance, at which she "déroule notre conviction en le chiffre de pirouettes prolongé vers un autre motif" 'unfolds our conviction in a cipher of pirouettes prolonged toward another motif.' The ballet, which Mallarmé termed "allégorique," relies on the efficacy of kinesthetic transference: the dancer's body evinces a sense of movement in the spectator, whose own embodiment is revealed-moved (296). In the 1893 "Les fonds dans le ballet," about Fuller, Mallarmé similarly celebrates "la solution qu['elle] déploie avec l'émoi seul de sa robe" 'the solution [ she] unfurls with the sole emotion of her dress' (308). Again, the solution is a dissolution through movement. In both cases, the female dancer instills in Mallarmé a sensorial uncoiling experienced as both inner body feeling and outer visual movement. This projection through déroulement suggests to him a "poeme dégagé de tout appareil du scribe" 'poem free of any scribal apparatus' yet not a disembodied poetics, since it proceeds through "une écriture corporelle" 'corporeal writing' (304). A similar kinesthesis is found in the 1895 "Le mystere dans les lettres" 'Mystery in Literature,' where the Book is animated by "enroulements transitoires . .. en argumentation de lumiere" 'transitory coils ... in argumentation of light' (385). The arabesques of "corporeal writing" uncoil visually and aurally-as in the subtly redundant and oddly sibilant alexandrine of Un coup de dés: "insinuation simple / au silence enroulée" 'simple insinuation / coiled around silence.' This kinesthetic image lying at the geometric center of the poem acts as its motor, bracketed between "COMME SI / . . . / COMME SI" 'AS IF / ... /AS IF' (466-67)-two electrodes generating its alternating current of text and blanks.

The déroulement of dance like music in "Crayonné au théatre" suggests that Mallarmé's poetics already functions in the (metaphoric) model of chronophotography: Seul principe! et ainsi que resplendit le lustre, c'est-a-dire lui-meme, l'exhibition prompte, sous toutes les facettes, de quoi que ce soit et notre vue adamantine, une reuvre dramatique montre la succession des extériorités de l'acte sans qu'aucun moment garde de réalité et qu'il se passe, en fin de compte, rien. (296)

Unique principie! and as the chandelier shines, that is to say itself, the quick display, under ali its facets, of anything whatsoever and our diamond-like vision, a dramatic work shows the succession of an act's exteriorities so that no moment remains real and nothing, in the end, happens.

This 1887 formulation of dance as glass optics ("luster" [lustre], "facets," "diamond-like vision"), optical motion ("shines," "quick display," "succession of an act's exteriorities"), and performance ("display," "dramatic work," "act," "happens") anticipates the preface of Un coup de dés, which develops this chronophotographic model into a fully cinematic theory of poetic composition.

We can now turn to the preface's key sentence (1 italicize the most likely main clause for clarity):

Le papier intervient chaque fois qu'une image, d'elle-meme, cesse ou rentre, acceptant la succession d'autres et, puisqu'il ne s'agit pas, ainsi que toujours, de traits sonores réguliers ou vers-plutót, de subdivisions prismatique de l'idée, l'instant de paraitre et que dure leur concours, daos quelque mise en scene spirituelle exacte, c'est a des places variables, pres ou loin du fil conducteur latent, en raison de la vraisemblance, que s'impose le texte. (Oeuvres [1945) 455)

Paper intervenes each time an image, of its own accord, ceases or withdraws, accepting the succession of others and, since it is a matter not, as usual, of regular sound features or verse-rather, of prismatic subdivisions of the idea, in the instant of appearing and so long as their concourse lasts, in sorne exact spiritual staging, it is at variable places, near to or far from the latent conducting wire, because of verisimilitude, that the text imposes itself.

The "succession" combined with "prismatic subdivisions of the idea" corresponds to chronophotography's "successive phases of a phenomenon" and to the musical-balletic "succession of an act's exteriorities." Moreover, the play of "image" and "text" directed by "sorne exact spiritual staging" at "variable places" recalls rather pointedly Mallarmé's statement on cinema. In it, we will recall, the book's virtuality ("all ... must take place in the reader's mind") is as if sublated by the play of images and text in cinema.23 The resemblance between the preface of Un coup de dés and the declaration on cinema is not fortuitous. Two recently published drafts of the preface suggest that Mallarmé conceived it in close parallel with his statement on cinema.

On cinema, he writes, in June 1897:

... mais, si vous employez la photographie, que n'allez-vous droit au cinématographe, dont le déroulement remplacera, images et texte, maint volume, avantageusement. (emphasis added)

... but, if you use photography, why not go straight to the cinematograph, whose unfolding will replace, images and text, many a volume, advantageously.

In two drafts of the preface of Un coup de dés, he writes, early in 1897: 

... mais si, pour quelque motif elle [la parole] requiert le papier, dépossédé de sa fonction originelle de présenter des images, alors ne doit-elle pas remplacer celles-ci a sa façon, idéalement et fictivement.

... or que daos un cas elle [la parole) requiere la blancheur du papier, dépossédé celui-ci de sa fonction de surface ou présenter uniquement a l'reil des images, alors la parole ne doitelle pas remplacer celles-ci a sa façon, moins tangiblement par un texte ou littérairement. (Oeuvres [1998) 403; emphasis added)

... but if, for sorne reason it [speech) requires paper, devoid of its original function of showing images, then should it not replace them in its own way, ideally and fictionally.

... whereas it [speech) might require the paper's whiteness, itself devoid of its function of surface or presenting solely to the eye images, then should not speech replace them in its own way, less tangibly by a text or literarily.

With the mention, elsewhere in the preface, of the "avantage . .. littéraire" 'literary ... advantage' of this new poetics of Un coup de dés (Oeuvres [1945] 455), there is little doubt that déroulement in the manner of the cinematograph constitutes a new literary advantage Mallarmé was experimenting with in Un coup de dés and even more performatively in his notes on Le Livre, a sketchy project of poetic spectacle left unfinished at his death.

Cinepoetics of Le Livre

For déroulement to remediate in Mallarmé's poetics not just the cinematic but cinema per se, it must apply to the projection of text. We need not wait for 1892 for Mallarmé to discover screen projection (at the Musée Grévin, as mentioned earlier), since in 1882 Villiers published his Contes cruels 'Cruel Tales,' which Mallarmé admired (Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Contes 8) and which includes a tale titled ''L'affichage céleste" 'Celestial Billboard.' lt is a futuristic satire about night-sky advertising with a powerful electrical lamposcope, "le projet lumineux d'utiliser les vastes étendues de la nuit, et d' élever, en un mot, le del a la hauteur del' époque" 'a luminous project of using the vast expanses of the night, and raising, to coin a phrase, the sky to the height of the era' (91).24 Curiously, when describing his first impression of Un coup de dés in 1897, Paul Valéry echoes Villiers's projective fancy almost term for term: "il me semblait maintenant d'etre pris dans le texte meme de l'univers silencieux . . .. Ou Kant, assez nalvement, peutetre avait cru voir la Loi Morale ... [Mallarmé] a essayé, pensai-je, d'élever enfin une page ci la puissance du ciel étoilé" 'it seemed to me now that I was caught in the very text of the silent universe. ... Where Kant, rather naively, perhaps, thought he saw the Moral Law .. . [Mallarmé] tried, I thought to myself, to raise at last a page to the powerof the star-studded sky' (626). It is worth noting that 1898 marks the debut of outdoor film shows: a screen was placed at the ice rink of the Palais des Glaces for night projection, while the Lumiere brothers and Mélies began projecting advertisements on street screens (Crafton 244; Meusy 72-73; Sadoul 256). Although the preface of Un coup de dés proposes "une vision simultanée de la Page" 'a simultaneous vision of the Page' as a kind of projective background for the poem, the poem's central inspiration is 'Tespacement de la lecture" 'the spacing of reading,' reflecting "la mobilité de l' écrit" 'the mobility of writing' (Oeuvres [1945] 455). Between motile words and synoptic whole, the spectatorial exegesis takes place. In 1895, in "Le mystere dans les lettres," Mallarmé wrote of "[l]es mots ... a mainte facette" 'words ... with many a facet' perceived by "l'esprit, centre de suspens vibratoire" 'the spirit, center of vibratory suspension,' as "projetés, en parois de grotte, tant que dure leur mobilité avant extinction" 'projected, on cave walls, as long as their mobility lasts ... before extinction' (386). The reference to Plato's cave is citational and metaphoric. In the notes on Le Livre, the projective poetics is by contrast performative and mechanical: "Il faut que d'un coup d'reil par la succession des phrases ... tout apparaisse" 'In one glance through the succession of sentences . .. everything must appear' (Oeuvres [1998] 562 ["Livre" 47B]). Words are no longer simulacral projections of archetypes; instead, contra Plato's idealism, projected words give the Book its substance of light:

Défaire idée en livre son mécanisme opérateur la
. . . . . . . . .
l'Idée y est visible là c'est net
lueur en titres transparence (595 (141])
Undoing idea as book
its operating mechanism there
. . . . . . . . .
the Idea in it is visible there it is clear
glow within titles transparence

lt is possible that the last line refers directly to cinematographic titles. The notes for Le Livre, a project Mallarmé began in 1893 and worked on earnestly in 1895, amount to a detailed if sketchy reconfiguration of the book through a reading performance that, unnoticed by Jacques Scherer and other commentators, closely resembles a cinematographic projection.25 The similarities are striking.

First, the performance is structured as a "séance," which is double and directed by an "opérateur" 'operator' (618-19 [192A]). Séance and opérateur are the exact terms used for, respectively, the cinematographic projection and the projectionist or camera operator.26 The dual, reversible function of a camera-projector brings a crucial technological implication to "la double séance" (559, 614, 619 [132A, 184A, 192A]), which Derrida famously read as a metonym of deconstruction in La dissémination. Second, the séance relies explicitly on electrically projected images. Electricity, used by Wagner and Fuller, materializes for Mallarmé the new condition of poetry as fictive substance. 27 In "Ballets," he calls for

je ne sais quel impersonnel ou fulgurant regard absolu, comme l'éclair qui enveloppe . . . la danseuse d'Édens, fondant une crudité électrique a des blancheurs extra-charnelles de fards, et en fait bien l'etre prestigieux reculé au-dela de toute vie possible. (Oeuvres [1945] 306-07)

I know not what impersonal or fulgurant absolute gaze, such as the flash that envelops ... the Édens dancer, infusing an electrical starkness into the extracarnal whites of face powder, and makes her indeed the prestigious being receding beyond any possible life.

Mallarmé sees electricity as the ideal lighting for performance because it preserves the heterogeneity of its artifice. In Le Livre, he writes of the operator that "il a vu clair, la lueur électr. a été son esprit" 'he saw clearly, the electr. glow was his spirit' (Oeuvres [1998] 582 ["Livre" llOA]). The preface of Un coup de dés mentions a "fil conducteur latent" 'latent conducting wire.' Third, in this electrical poetic sentience, Mallarmé's claims are rigorously indistinguishable from those of Edison, the Lumiere brothers, or early film critics (such as Uzanne). His performance, like cinema, brings life back to the frozen punctum of photography:

           pureté lumiere électr—
                      — le volume, malgré l'im-
pression fixe, devient par ce jeu, mobi-
le — de mort il devient vie (1046 [191A])

           purity electr light —
                       — the volume, despite the fixed im-

pression, becomes with this play, mo-
bile — from death it becomes life

Fourth, the projection constitutes a screen in the most cinematic passages of the notes:

                        l'arabesque électrique
                s'allume derriere — et les deux

                 — sorte de déchirure sacrée du
        voile, orchestre —ou déchire —
                et deux etres a la fois oiseau
        et parfum — semblable aux deux d'en

        haut... (956 [21A])

                        the electrical arabesque
                  lights up behind — and the two
                  — a kind of sacred tearing of the
        veil, orchestra — or tears —
                  and the two beings at once bird
        and perfume - akin to the two from
        up there ...

The context of this passage is neither a play set nor a screen projection exactly; rather, it is a theatrical stage with mobile veils used as screens: "rideau dioramique s'est ap[p]rofondi ombre de plus en plus forte" 'dioramic curtain deepened stronger and stronger shadow' (554 [24A]). Mallarmé is thinking of the use of an image-projection device together with a dance or pantomime performance. In 1896 cinematographic projections combined with still shots were used onstage for the first time, in La biche au bois 'A Doe in the Woods.'28 Fifth, early films were handcranked, and operators utilized this feature to heighten dramatic effect by starting the projection slowly, so that a still seemed to come to life, and by slowing down or accelerating- even reversing-the film antirealistically (Gunning, "New Thresholds" 95). The preface to Un coup de dés appeals to the same visual mobility "d'accélérer tantót et de ralentir le mouvement" 'to accelerate at times and to slow down the movement' of reading ( Oeuvres [1945] 455). Among films shown backward was Écriture a l'envers 'Reverse Writing' (Lumiere no. 42, 1896 [Sadoul 126]), a single shot of writing erasing itself-a filmic double séance of sorts, since the filming of the act of writing is shown only as the writing trace is undone.29 Sixth and finally, Mallarmé conceived of the performance of Le Livre as public, commercial, repetitive, highly profitable, and containing advertisements-which are mentioned three times (Oeuvres [1998] 606, 612, 622 ["Livre" 169A, 182, 201A]). His entrepreneurial drive is unambiguous: "opération financiere pure a travers le livre sinon nul" 'pure financial operation through the book otherwise nothing' (594 [139A]). Moreover, his predicted receipts from the séances compare in magnitude with the staggering revenues of cinema's first year.30

I believe that in the project of Le Livre Mallarmé contemplated basing a popular spectacle on mechanized reproducibility, reaping large financial benefits, and putting a Cinématographe-like apparatus at the service of poetry. I extrapolate from Jacques Ranciere's reading of Mallarmé's late politico-aesthetic project in Mallarmé: La politique de la sirene. For Ranciere, Mallarmé envisaged the poem's performance as a rebirth of social participation, the poem performing nothing but its own production, in a Hegelian fusion of the real and the ideal. Nothing would result from the performance-no social mystification, no new Wagnerian myth-but a new collective origin countersigned by the power of poetry, a power desacralized with money and thus able to mobilize without danger mass economic realities and dreams (62, 98-108). Cinepoetics, however, precludes a Hegelian "poem about nothing" (106), since the materiality of the apparatus and the technological contamination of the sensorial experience of viewing or reading remain integral to cinepoetics. Mallarmé would have found in cinema's sensorial attraction and electrically animated projection, as I reconstruct them, an apparatus uniquely capable of translating poetry's virtual syntax and the blank space of the page into a public performance of the déroulement of modernity's new materiality.

Cinepoetics after Mallarmé

If cinepoetics is so central to Mallarmé's late experimental oeuvre, we might wonder why it has been so thoroughly missed by critics and whether that oeuvre led to cinepoetic experiments by other poets. As to our first question, the journal Cosmopolis hada small circulation, and the Vollard edition of Un coup de dés never saw the light of day-although Valéry, Gustave Kahn, and others received full sets of proofs (Mallarmé, Correspondance 9: 172). Only in 1912 was any part of Un coup de dés published in a book: a page appeared in Albert Thibaudet's volume on Mallarmé (Boschetti 178), at about the time Apollinaire began to think of his "idéogrammes lyriques" 'lyrical ideograms' (qtd. in Boschetti 176), later renamed Calligrammes. The reception of Un coup de dés between 1897 and 1912 remains a complete puzzle. As for cinema, only around 1910-11 did it take on again for writers sorne of the artistic promise Mallarmé had divined in it.31

One critic carne close to intuiting Mallarmé 's cinepoetics: Walter Benjamín. Without knowing the financial calculations of Le Livre (published in 1957), Benjamín punned on Mallarmé as an accountant. By titling a section in One-Way Street "Bücherrevisor," or "auditor of [accounting] books" (Missac 30), Benjamin makes of Mallarmé a reenvisioner of the Book, thereby explicitly granting him a place among thinkers of mass media: Mallarmé "was in the 'Coup de dés' the first to incorporate the graphic tensions of the advertisement in the printed page," his innovations being in "pre-established harmony with ali the decisive events of our times in economics, technology, and public life" (Benjamín 77). For Benjamín, nonetheless, Mallarmé's vanguardism in the technosphere stops short of remediating industrial practices or devices into a subversive art form. Yet when Benjamín suggests asan example that "the card index marks the conquest of three-dimensional writing" (78), a textual equivalent of photo flip-books, he stumbles on a connection made by Mallarmé, for whom the Book functions three-dimensionally:

Oui, le Livre ou cette monographie qu' il devient d'un type (superposition des pages comme un coffret, défendant contre le brutal espace une délicatesse reployée infinie et intime de l'etre en soi-meme) suffit avec maints procédés si neufs analogues en raréfaction a ce qu'a de subtil la vie. (Oeuvres (1945] 318)

Yes, the Book or this monograph[y) of a type that it becomes (stack of pages like a case, defending against the brutal space a folded-up, infinite, and intimate gentleness ofbeing [with]in itself) suffices with many brand-new devices analogous in rarefaction to the subtlety of life.

The Book's voluminosity manifests itself as a kind of virtual gestural motion in an exoskeletal "coffret" 'case' protecting a sentience specifically winglike, as denotes the root -ployer. The Book has an animate soul whose "gentleness" and "intimate" character have the "subtlety of life." More animal or gestural than Benjamin's Rolodex, Mallarmé's Book in "Le mystere dans les lettres" becomes in Le Livre a more mechanical "meuble de laque" 'lacquered chest' with "casiers" 'slots,' publicly composing and decomposing the volume of the book under "la lampe électrique unique" 'a single electrical lamp,' "la double séance ... ayant montré l'identité de ce volume avec / lui-meme" 'the twin performance ... having shown the identity of the volume / with itself' (Oeuvres [1998] 617-19 ["Livre" 192-95]}. Among the "brandnew devices" capable of folding up the "subtlety of life," there is of course the amazingly compact wood-frame Lumiere camera-the size of a coffret or casier or thick volume (10 x 10 x 6 in.). As for Benjamin's flip-books, they too intersect cinema, like the 1894 La danse serpentine de Loïc Fuller, containing seventy hand-colored cells, or the 1895 Lumiere film La danse serpentine (no. 765), with seven hundred paper-printed frames mounted on a metal core (Lista 638-39).

For Benjamin as for Mallarmé, such industrially derived devices have the potential to reconnect modernity to the mimetic force that subtends writing. Benjamín writes of "rune and knot notation," suggesting forms of "picture writing" ("Bilderschrift"), especially a new dynamic kind he calls a "moving script" ("Wandelschrift"): "With the foundation of an international moving script they [ the poets] will renew their authority in the life of peoples, and find a role awaiting them in comparison to which all the innovative aspirations of rhetoric will reveal themselves as antiquated daydreams" (77). This passage is close to the reading of Mallarmé proposed by Ranciere (see also Miriam Hansen 63). Prophesizing Wandelschrift as a new poetic writing where kinetics overtakes rhetoricon the very page where he mentions also Un coup de dés-Benjamin appears to draw from Mallarmé's cinepoetics while strategically distancing himself from it. The other critic who appears to have recognized and avoided Mallarmé's cinepoetics is Derrida. Not only does his essay "La double séance" cite practically all the kinesthetic passages in Mallarmé, it also reproduces in a footnote Mallarmé's full statement on cinema, without directly commenting on it (257n20). Derrida, a precise metaphorist, qualifies the balletic passage of the dancer who "unfolds our conviction" as a "cinématographique voltige" 'cinematographic acrobatics' (294). In "La double séance," Derrida deconstructs Mallarmé 's Le Livre and Philippe Sollers's Nombres, by reading their diff erence as reciproca} inscriptions. Mallarmé also provides the apparatus of mobile spacing (espacement) that illustrates Derrida's main thesis: to represent nature (mimesis), the poetic or philosophical Book must solicit nature's powers (physis), thereby supplementing and fictionalizing nature (70). What separates Derrida's dyadic différance-dyadic as both a spacing and a timing-from Mallarmé's cinepoetic déroulement, which also operates both in space and in time, is the place of technology. While Mallarmé opens the figural to a technologically mediated principie, déroulement, to create a form (Un coup de dés) ostensibly mimicking nature more closely,32 Derrida's espacement evacuates the technological the better to show the irreducible play of textual relations. What is left out-and leaves cinepoetics out-of writing is the new prediscursive materiality of technologized experience.33

Benjamin's meditations on Mallarmé and Wandelschrift took place around 1928-29, during the massive adoption of synchronous sound by commercial cinema. In a turn not unique in his oeuvre, Benjamin thus announced a cinematic future for poetry at the very moment that, in large part because of the arrival of the talkies, French cinepoetic practices receded. Coining the term cinépoeme in 1928, the Romanian poet, philosopher, and filmmaker Benjamin Fondane transformed cinepoetry into a virtual genre with the invitation "ouvrons done l' ere des scénarii intournables" 'let us open the era of unfilmable scenarios' (19; see also Janicot). Still, between Mallarmé's death (1898) and the end of mainstream silent films (1929), French experimental poets explored cinepoetic aesthetics en masse, probably so long as the possibility of the adaptation of their texts to nondramatic or nonnarrative cinema was not foreclosed. Blaise Cendrars, Guillaume Apollinaire, Pierre Albert-Birot, Jean Cocteau, Pierre Reverdy, Ivan Goll, Philippe Soupault, Louis Aragon, Saint-Pol-Roux, Henri Michaux, Benjamin Péret, Antonio Artaud, Robert Desnos, Benjamin Fondane, Jules Romains, Irene Hillel-Erlanger, Romain Rolland- each wrote at least one poem-scenario, filmic poem, or cinematic text between 1917 and 1928. Only two of these works were ever filmed: Artaud's La coquille et le clergyman, directed by Germaine Dulac, and Desnos's L' étoile de mer, directed by Man Ray, both in 1927.34 Better known is the fact that Cendrars, Fondane, Cocteau, Artaud, Jean Epstein, and Prévert collaborated on or directed movies during and after the 1920s. Cinepoetic experimentation has a second-equally unstudied and varied-flowering in France and French from 1947 to the late 1970s, critically underlying the poststructural textual revolution.35

Cinepoetic experimentation alters current genealogies of avant-garde movements in French poetry and aesthetic theory. For instance, one of the main theoreticians of cinepoetics, Epstein-a writer, philosopher, and avant-garde filmmaker who apprenticed with Abel Gance and trained Luis Buñuel-might be compared with Tristan Tzara and André Breton. Epstein propounded a nondadaist, nonsurrealist filmic poetics reflecting the practices of a number of French and European poet experimenters, including all the major surrealist dissidents.36 Cinepoetic experimentation calls into question the reduction and canonization of a variety of oeuvres, poems and aesthetic events into homogeneous movements with stars. As Anna Boschetti, Étienne-Alain Hubert (287-90), and Willard Bohn (129-39) have recently documented, Apollinaire and Breton were strategic reducers of poetry's manifold trends. In November 1917, Apollinaire delivered his lecture "L'esprit nouveau et les poetes" 'The New Spirit and Poets' (Oeuvres 943-54), the first manifesto explicitly enjoining poets to utilize cinema as the most promising new medium among the "nouveaux moyens d'expression qui ajoutent a l'art le mouvement" 'new means of expression adding motion to art' in order to create "le livre vu et entendu de l'avenir" 'the seeable and hearable book of the future' (954, 945). 'Ibis goal is precisely what Wandelschrift was meant to incarnate, yet when citing this lecture in his 1929 text "Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia," Benjamín (then close to surrealist circles) cuts the citation short to omit any reference to cinema (184). After this lecture, Breton distanced himself theoretically from Apollinaire, displeased by Apollinaire's wartime  Germanophobia and frowning on technophilic experimentation as necessarily tainted by the culture industry. In 1929 Breton commended Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's Un chien andalou, and he himself worked on a scenario from Les diaboliques, by Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly (Prieur and Morel 117). Breton's extraordinarily contested relation to cinema has certainly contributed to the occultation of post-Apollinaire cinepoetics.37

Cinepoetry as an interartistic field central to poetry avant-gardismfrom Mallarmé through unanimism, surrealism, lettrism, and COBRA to the Situationist International and Tel quel, and not limited to French literature38 confronts recent critical notions such as multimedia, the posthuman, and the virtual, with linkage to overa century of experimentation in writing. A strong case for cinepoetry's conversancy in and especially lucidity about media technology can be made, since Mallarmé, as pioneering cinepoet, warned that one "does not with impunity come close to a mechanism and get involved with it without sorne loss." This media savviness of experimental cinepoetry may enrich and demarginalize poetry studies in an era increasingly and understandably shaped by visual culture.



Suzanne Guerlac's 2001 seminar "Poetic Seeing" triggered my first inklings about cinepoetry. I thank Guerlac, Ann Smock, Michael Lucey, Ulysse Dutoit, Lynn Hejinian, Julio Ramos, and the Townsend Center's reading group Contemporary Poetry in French (ali of the University of California, Berkeley). My English and my thinking would both have remained clunky without the attentiveness of my wife, Margaret. Unless otherwise indicated, the English translations in this essay are mine.

1 Max Skladanowski pioneered cinema in Berlín on l November 1895, showing a nine-film paying program with his Bioskop camera-projector (Mannoni, Great Art 457-58); the camera-projectors of Thomas Edison, George William de Bedts, Georges Mélies, and Georges Demeny followed in early 1896.

2 Blanchot sees Mallarmé's virtual syntax in Un coup de dés as going against the 'logic of subordination' (346). See also Bowie (5, 142) and Richard (22).

3 The posthuman is an episteme privileging information over substrate, prosthesis over embodiment, and mechanical simulation over consciousness (Hayles, How 2-3, 160-91). In May 1896, Mallarmé suggested that the bicycle disorders gender (pants giving female bicyclists "un sexe douteux" 'a dubious gender') and humanness: ''l'etre humain n'approche pas impunément d'un mécanisme et ne s'y mele pas sans perte" 'the human being does not with impunity come close to a mechanism and get involved with it without sorne loss' (Mondor, Autres précisions 214). In March 1897, Robert de Souza countered accusations against Mallarmé's "syntaxe personnelle" 'personal syntax' by arguing that the poet must make "une improvisation incessante" 'incessant improvisation' against "des moyens mécaniques (machines a écrire, etc ... ). des nécessités de communications rapides (télégraphe, téléphone, etc ... )" 'mechanical media (typewriter, etc.), rapid communication needs (telegraph, telephone, etc.),' which threaten to transform language into "un phénomene mécanique" 'a mechanical phenomenon' (Marchal 441).

4 Mallarmé's three homages to Verlaine taken together point tantalizingly to a future of humanity that, if not posthuman, at least links Verlaine's posterity to changes in vision and motion: "humaine figure souveraine" 'sovereign human figure,' "son génie enfui au temps futur" 'his genius having fled to the future' (Oeuvres (1945] 510-ll; 9 Jan. 1896); "que la bise le roule" 'may the wind roll him,' "l'astre múri des lendemains / Dont un scintillement argentera la foule" 'the ripened star of tomorrows / Whose silver tlickering will tint the crowd' (71; Jan. 1897).

5 Kittler rightly points out (152) that Mallarmé ( Oeuvres (1945] 880) describes the automobile as a moving optical device, announcing the dolly shot in cinema.

6 Kahn's 1897 "Essai sur le vers libre," inspired by Mallarmé, invoked one's "rythme propre et individue!'' 'own and individual rhythm' as a truer unit than "le nombre conventionnel du vers" 'the conventional quantity of a verse' because it proceeds as "un arret simultané du sens et du rythme sur toute la fraction organique du vers et de la pensée" 'a simultaneous seizure by sense and rhythm of the en tire organic fraction of verse and thought' (26, 28).

7 The fourth dimension links textual and cinematic spaces: see Bohn 7-27 ("Probing the Fourth Dimension: Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Weber"); Eisenstein lll-23 ("The Fourth Dimension in Cinema").

8 Radiation is injected directly in the "yeux fictifs" 'fictive eyes,' which shine with "le néant vivant" 'the live void' (314). For the female body and the origin of cinema in this novel, see Michelson.

9 Media scholars use remediation to refer to "the cycling of different media through one another" (Hayles, Writing Machines 5). In 1914, with Francis Picabia, Marvis de Zayas, and Alberto Savinio, Guillaume Apollinaire planned a pantomime (A quelle heure un train partira-t-il pour Paris?) with "un écran . . . lumineux" 'a luminous screen' veiling the stage and film "projections" shown against a "rideau" 'curtain' (6, 21).

10 The first report of the Cinématographe in Le Figaro, in Huret's column (11 Feb. 1896), is ex post facto: "Donner la liste des notabilités qui se sont extasiées devant l'invention de MM. Lumiere est impossible, autant reproduire le Tout-Paris" 'Giving the list of society figures who have been astonished by the Lumieres' invention is impossible: it would amount to reciting Paris's who's who' ("Concerts"). Other reports followed on 23 February, 6 March, 15 March, 22 March, 31 March, and so on.

11 Mannoni, Great Art 466. In May 1897, Paul Nadar demonstrated his camera to the Musée Grévin board, which deemed it too noisy (Meusy 48, 74).

12 A movie theater, the Pirou-Normandin, opened in mid-1896 at 86, ruede Clichy (Meusy 530), across place Clichy from Mallarmé's house, at 87, ruede Rome (Mallarmé, Oeuvres [1945] xxiv).

13 The Cosmopolis editorial notes on Un coup de dés are reproduced in Berr and Mallarmé, Oeuvres (1998) 392.

14 Correspondance 9: 159-60, 173, 233. Remy de Gourmont wrote the first literary essay on cinema at this occasion.

15 Oeuvres (1945} 878. This statement was originally published in January 1898 in the Mercure de France (Ibels 110). Both sources have "remplacez la photographie" instead of"employez la photographie." This typo by the Mercure typesetter was corrected with the publication of the original letter (Mallarmé, Correspondance 9: 236). Ortel is the only critic 1 know to have commented on Mallarmé's (uncorrected) statement on cinema (137-39).

16 Ibeis indicates that "le Livre aura méme du relief au stéréoscope" 'the Book will even have stereoscopic relief' (100). Readers of the Mercure were likely to identify Ibels's Book with Mallarmé's "Livre," which is similarly capitalized in the text (but admittedly not the title) of "Quant au livre" 'Regarding the Book,' published in the 1896 Divagations (Oeuvres [1945] 372-73). Finally, Mallarmé in fact used photography "with" text when he authorized the photolithographic reproduction of bis handwritten manuscripts for the 1887 limited edition Les poésies de Stéphane Mallarmé ("Livre" 20).

17 In 1923 Jean Cocteau wrote, "Le cinématographe devrait dérouler une psychologie sans texte. J'essaye, avec 1homas, de dérouler un texte sans psychologie . . . " 'Cinema should unfold as a psychology without text. I try with 1homas [the novel 1homas l'imposteur] to unfold a text without psychology .. .' (10).

18 On epistemological intersections of artificial forces, cinematic devices, and somatic bodies, see DidiHuberman; Gordon; Kittler; Massumi; Rutsky; Sicard; and Singer.

19 Kittler's pioneering work uncovers rhizomatic links among politics, technology, and modernist literature. His study maps the development of the phonograph, cinema, and the typewriter on Lacan's triad: phonograph = real, film = imaginary, typewriter = symbolic (16, 119). Although Kittler makes a surprisingly strong case overall, he places excessive torque on details. Filtering Mallarmé's technological acumen through Lacan's scheme, Kittler deems Mallarmé a "letter fetishist" whose "only 'innovation' was that for the first time, the empty spaces between words or letters were granted typographical 'weight' - typewriter poetics" (80), a reductive statement Kittler qualifies by adding that Mallarmé was aware of the arbitrary signifier in a way similar to Freud's hermeneutics of latency in the manifest text (90). While astutely noting that Mallarmé views the automobile as a moving optical device (152), Kittler is intent on making him fit the typewriter-symbolic order. Thus, in the section "Typewriter," Mallarmé's "elocutionary disappearance of the poet" is cited in support of the modern subject's inscription into the symbolic order of information (228). A page later, Kittler writes of"Mallarmé's 'Coup de dés' and Apollinaire's 'Calligrammes,' those typographical poems that attempt to bring writers on par with film and phonography ... " (229), but the references are to Apollinaire's 1917 manifesto and to Walter J. Ong, and the allusion to Mallarmé remains frustratingly unelucidated (279nl20}. While Kittler seems to intuit Mallarmé's cinepoetics, like Benjamin and Derrida before him he stops short of thematizing or theorizing itas such.

20 On Zeno's paradox, see Doane 172-205; on visuomotor perception in film viewing, see Hochberg and Brooks. For Bergson and cinema, see Deleuze, esp. 1-11.

21 See Frizot for the human gait in the cinematic apparatus. Hubert points out that Apollinaire and Breton metaphorized the shift to a new literature as that from leg towheel.

22 For Fuller's contested rapport with her body as a lesbian, see Lista 53, 296, 300-02.

23 Carroll emphasizes spectatorial activity, citing Eisenstein's statement that with montage "the spectator is drawn into a creative act of a kind in which bis individual nature is not only not enslaved to the individuality of the author but is deployed to the full by a fusion with the author's purpose ... " (145).

24 In "La machine a gloire" 'The Glory Machine,' dedicated to Mallarmé, Villiers invents "une pure machine proposée comme moyen d'atteindre, infailliblement, un but purement intellectuel" 'apure machine proposed as a means to attain infallibly a purely intellectual goal' (Contes 104).

25 See Mallarmé, "Livre" 151 for dates and 46-107 for the "physics" of the Book's performance.

26 Filmic "séance" contrasts with live theater "représentation" (Rittaud-Hutinet and Rittaud-Hutinet 350).

27 Richard summarizes Mallarméan light as "modes d 'apparition de la clarté .. . qui ... visent a installer sur les aires visibles de l'objet la danse d'une lumiere instable" 'modes of apparition ofbrightness ... that ... aim at installing on the visible surfaces of the object the dance of an unstable lighting" (482). For Wagner, see Crary 223-34. For Fuller, see Lista 156-59, 259; McCarren 157- 59; and Iampolski. For Mallarmé and electricity, which Richard mentions reluctantly (521), see Ranciere 82-83.

28 Meusy 42. The hand-painted film used in the show was rediscovered in 1996 (Mannoni, "Une féerie"). Le Figaro rnentions that sorne of the show's thirty-two tableaus are "transformations" -i.e., films (Fouquier).

29 Self-erasure appears in an 1897 passage of Mallarmé's on viewing inane spectacles for "le charme peutetre inconnu, en littérature, d'éteindre stricternent une a une toute vue qui éclaterait avec pureté; ainsi que de raturer jusqu' a de certains mots ... " 'the charro, perhaps unknown in Iiterature, of extinguishing strictly one by one any sight that would burst out with purity; much like crossing out certain words .. .' (Oeuvres [1945] 298, 1562). It is tempting to read the word "vue"-the industry's term for a single-shot film-as evidence that Mallarrné sneaked visits to the Pirou-Norrnandin.

30 The four-year séances at one franc per page per seat add up to the huge sum of 480,000 francs (Oeuvres [1998] 594). In its first six months, the Lumieres' Cinématographe brought in 1,060,805 francs (Mannoni, Great Art 464), with between one and three venues. The ticket price was one franc, an hour's wage for unskilled factory workers (Meusy 69).

31 Still, cinema infiltrates the work of Alfred Jarry in 1901 at the latest (Tortajada 103). The next generation attains filmic literacy in early childhood: Philippe Soupault and Jacques Prévert point to 1906- 07 as the years they realized their fascination for cinema (Meusy 102) . For Gabriele D'Annunzio and Ricciotto Canudo, the first European poets to work in the film industry after 1909, see Woodehouse 244, 260. Carou documents legal and artistic relations of authors with early cinema.

32 About Un coup de dés, Mallarmé wrote to Gide on 14 May 1897, "Le rythme d'une phrase au sujet d'un acte ou meme d'un objet n'a de sens que s' il les imite . . . " 'The rhythm of a sentence concerning an actor even an object makes sense only if it imitates them .. .' ( Correspondance 9: 172).

33 This is Mark Hansen's measured objection to Derrida's reduction of technology (134, 146). A fuller analysis of Derrida's work would show how his empiricism and experience of technology (gramophone, typewriter, tape recorder, postcard, archives, etc.) complicate textual play.

34 Man Ray's 1928 film Le mystere du cháteau de Dé is titled after Un coup de dés beca use of the cubic shape of the Noailles's villa in Hyeres, where the film was made (Palni 152).

35 Consider the work of Isidore Isou, Jean Cayrol, Henri Micha ux, Jean -Pierre Duprey, Guy Debord, Christian Dotremont, Nelly Kaplan, Raymond Queneau, Maurice Roche, Danielle Collobert, Jacques Roubaud, Max Jeanne, Frankétienne, Marce! Marien. In 1977 Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet adapted Un coup de dés as Toute révolution est un coup de dés (Byg 18-19, 296).

36 For recent introductions to Epstein, see Moore; Turvey. For selected writings by Epstein, see Epstein, Écrits and Poésie; in English, see Abe!, "Exploring" and French Film Theory. For amnesia about Epstein, see Ray 3-12. Epstein's key cinepoetic work is La poésie d'aujourd'hui: Un nouvel état d'inte/ligence 'The Poetry ofToday: A New State of Intelligence' (1921).

37 See Polizzotti 44, 49, 69, 151; Breton's 1951 statement "Comme dans un bois" (trans. as "As in a Wood"); Virmaux and Virmaux 12-95; Abe!, "Exploring."

38 See McCabe; Prado Feliu; and Süssekind for AngloAmerican, Spanish, and Brazilian literatures, respectively.


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Mallarmé's Cinepoetics: The Poem Uncoiled by the Cinématographe, 1893-98

Author(s): Christophe Wall-Romana

Source: PMLA, Vol. 120, No. 1, Special Topic: On Poetry (Jan., 2005), pp. 128-147

Published by: Modern Language Association

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