Prose Poetry: All the Rest is Literature

Desmarais, Jane H. and Weir, David. 2020. Prose Poetry: All the Rest is Literature. In: Jane H. Desmarais and David Weir, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Decadence. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 351-367. ISBN 9780190066956 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This chapter treats the prose poem as the decadent genre par excellence by focusing on Charles Baudelaire’s Le Spleen de Paris (Paris Spleen, 1869). The prose poem is well suited to the expression of decadent culture because of its formal subversion of conventional poetry, especially as adapted by Baudelaire to articulate “the bump and lurch” of urban experience. J. K. Huysmans certified the decadent credentials of the genre when he described it in À rebours (Against Nature, 1884) as “the osmazome of literature, the essential oil of art,” a literary distillation that makes it “an aesthetic treat to none but the most discerning.” The article analyzes “Any Where Out of the World” and other prose poems in relation to certain poems in Le Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil, 1857), observing no loss of metaphorical power in the more “prosaic” medium despite Baudelaire’s secular and subversive treatment of many of the same poetic material given more elevated, spiritual treatment in the earlier collection.

Item Type:

Book Section

Identification Number (DOI):


aura, Charles Baudelaire, Aloysius Bertrand, conventions, correspondences, genre, modernity, secularization, subversion, Emanuel Swedenborg

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature > Decadence Research Unit


6 August 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

05 Mar 2024 14:51

Last Modified:

05 Mar 2024 14:51


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