Baudelaire and the Literary Fabrication of the Poor


By the time Baudelaire starts his work-in-progress prose-poems project, the Petits Poëmes en prose (1857–1865), also known as Le spleen de Paris (Paris Spleen),1 the poor, a recurrent protagonist of these short narratives, have already achieved a successful literary career of three decades. This evolution has mainly taken place in the rising genre of the novel, which, from the 1830s onward, interacts with an emerging mass public, whether one thinks of Dickens’ Oliver Twist; or, the Parish Boy’s Progress (1837–39), the Newgate novels, Eugène Sue’s likewise widely popular Les mystères de Paris (1842–1843), George Sand’s La mare au Diable (1846) or Francois le Champi (1847–48). At that time, Hugo’s masterpiece, Les misérables (1862), which would have a tremendous impact on Baudelaire’s prose poem project, is still to come.

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