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BOUNDARIES: BOURGEOIS BELGIUM AND “TENTACULAR” MODERNISM

  • DEBORA L. SILVERMAN (a1)
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The sweep, originality, and plenitude of Jerrold Seigel's work have transformed our field. His prolific and creative scholarship encompasses the history of ideas, the history of cultural forms, and the history of intellectuals, areas typically examined separately as coherent and discrete sections of intellectual history. I have been reading Seigel for many years now, assigned his texts in my classes, and watched students come alive as they encounter his Marx, his Bohemia, his Baudelaire, his Foucault, his Simmel. My own research and writing have been deeply influenced by key ideas generated in Seigel's body of work, testing and contesting, for example, his project of historicizing subjectivity and identity in modern Europe.

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References
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1 Simmel Georg, The Philosophy of Money, trans. Bottomore Tom and Frisby David (London, 1990), 8081 .

2 Seigel draws on the first term from Hegel's writing on the French Revolution; he identifies the second in Jerrold Seigel, “Jerrold Seigel on the Ties between Modernity and Bourgeois Life in Western Europe” (interview), in fifteen eightyfour: Academic Perspectives from Cambridge University Press, 23 April 2012, at www.cambridgeblog.org/2012/04/jerrold-seigel-on-the-ties-between-modernity-and-bourgeois-life-in-western-europe.

3 Hobsbawm Eric, The Age of Empire (London, 1987), 165–91.

4 These are not commented on by Seigel, but they amplify his analysis and are central to my essay. They appear in Simmel's 1903 text “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” in Georg Simmel on Individuality and Social Forms: Selected Writings, ed. and trans. Donald Levine (Chicago, 1971), 324–39.

5 Ibid., 335, 334.

6 Baudelaire Charles, “Crowds,” in Baudelaire, Paris Spleen, trans. Varèse Louise (New York, 1970), 20.

7 Baudelaire Charles, “The Painter of Modern Life,” in Baudelaire, Selected Writings about Art and Literature, ed. and trans. Charvet P. E. (London, 1972), 390-436, at 419, 398.

8 Charles Baudelaire, “A Heroic Death” in Baudelaire, Paris Spleen, 56.

9 Silverman Debora, Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art (New York, 2000), Introduction, chap. 5; and Silverman “Weaving Painting: Religious and Social Origins of Vincent van Gogh's Pictorial Labor,” in Michael Roth S., ed., Rediscovering History: Culture, Politics, and the Psyche (Stanford, 1994), 137–68.

10 This is from Georges Eekhoud's Nouvelle Carthage (Brussels, 2004; first published 1888), part 3, chap. 4, “Contumace,” 313. Note how the root of the term is related to “tumescent,” and defined in part as having “a swelled head” and marked by hubristic refusal to be subjugated.

11 In Between Cultures, his most recent book, Seigel does seek to address the relationship between “Europe and its others.” But Belgium's imperial economy and society had unique forms and functions, particularly as the Congo Free State through 1908 was not a colony but a conjury, a non-settler empire where products, in profusion, were primary, and not based on the interaction, however vexed, of subject peoples. I discuss these specific characteristics of Belgian imperialism and their impact in Belgium in my “Art Nouveau, Art of Darkness: African Lineages of Belgian Modernism, Part I,” West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 18/2 (2011), 139–81.

12 Gilroy Paul, After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture? (Abingdon, 2004), 66, 70.

13 Maurice Maeterlinck quoted in Amy Lowell, “Émile Verhaeren,” in Warner C. D., ed., The Library of the World's Best Literature, An Anthology in Thirty Volumes (New York, 1917), accessed at www.bartleby.com.

14 Camille Mauclair, “La Belgique par un Français,” La revue encyclopédique, 24 July 1897, 585.

15 Vanwelkenhuysen Gustave, Vocations littéraires: Camille Lemonnier, Georges Eekhoud, Émile Verhaeren, Georges Rodenbach, Maurice Maeterlinck (Geneva, 1959); Gilsoul Robert, La théorie de l'art pour l'art chez les écrivains belges (Brussels, 1939); Block Jane, “The Art of the Law: Le Jeune Barreau, Patron of the Arts and Letters,” in Block, ed., Belgium: The Golden Decades 1880–1914 (New York, 1997), 181–219; Debora Silverman, “‘Modernité sans Frontières’: Culture, Politics, and the Boundaries of the Avant-Garde in King Leopold's Belgium 1885–1910,” American Imago 68/4 (2011), 707–97.

16 Verhaeren Émile, “Aux flamandes d'autrefois,” from Verhaeren, Les flamandes (1883), in Gorceix Paul, ed., Fin de siècle et symbolisme en Belgique: Oeuvres poétiques (Brussels, 1998), 165.

17 Albert Giraud, “Les flamandes,” La Jeune Belgique 2 (1882–3), 109–15, at 110.

18 Albert Giraud, “Les moines, à Émile Verhaeren,” La Jeune Belgique 5 (1885–6), 303–9, at 304; see also discussion of the review and the book in Gilsoul, La théorie de l'art, 142–3.

19 Verhaeren Émile, Contes de minuit, contes gras, frontispiece by van Rhysselberghe Théo (Brussels, 1884), 5–19.

20 Aron Paul, Les écrivains belges et le socialisme (1880–1913) (Brussels, 1985), 25–125; 253–66.

21 Verhaeren Émile, “ La ville,” in Verhaeren, Les campagnes hallucinées: Les villes tentaculaires, ed. Piron Maurice (Paris, 1982), 24.

22 Theis O. F., “Émile Verhaeren,” North American Review 198/694 (1913), 354–64, at 360.

23 Le Gallienne Richard, “Ballad of London,” in Gallienne Le, Robert Louis Stevenson: An Elegy and Other Poems (London and Boston, 1895), 26.

24 Lowell, “Émile Verhaeren”; see also the Belgian socialist newspaper Le peuple, 24 Nov. 1926, quoted in Herbert Eugenia W., The Artist and Social Reform, France and Belgium, 1885–1898 (New Haven, 1961), 139.

25 Émile Verhaeren, “La révolte,” in Verhaeren, Les campagnes hallucinées: Les villes tentaculaires, 135–8, at 135; “Vers le futur,” in ibid., 156–8, at 156, 157.

26 Gustave Vanwelkenhuyzen, Paul Verlaine en Belgique (Brussels, 1945).

27 Rimbaud quoted in Wilson Edmund, Axel's Castle: A Study of the Imaginative Literature of 1870–1930 (New York, 1959 ; first published 1931), 216.

28 Lemonnier Camille, “La vie belge,” in Gorceix Paul, ed., La Belgique fin de siècle (Brussels, 1997), 69–201, at 138.

29 Quoted in Selected Poems: Émile Verhaeren, ed. and trans. Will Stone (Todmorden, 2014), introduction, n. p., Section II.

30 Lemonnier, “La vie belge,” 138. The bagaudae were third- and fourth-century rural rebel bands that attacked the Romans.

31 Émile Verhaeren, “L’âme de la ville,” in Verhaeren, Les campagnes hallucinées: Les villes tentaculaires, 91–5; Verhaeren, “Les usines,” in ibid., 120–22; and Verhaeren, “Le bazar,” in ibid., 127–9.

32 Charles Baudelaire, “Crowds,” in Baudelaire, Paris Spleen, 20.

33 Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life,” 402.

34 Lemonnier, “La vie belge,” 138.

35 Quoted in Wilson, Axel's Castle, 216.

36 Hanlet Camille, Les écrivains belges contemporains de la langue française, 1800–1946 (Liège, 1946), 186–7; Maurice Piron, “Préface,” in Verhaeren, Les campagnes hallucinées: Les villes tentaculaires, 7–16, at 15.

37 Patrick McGuinness, “Preface,” in Verhaeren, Selected Poems, i–iv, at ii, iv. This tactic was first tried by Charles de Coster, who invented Flemish-sounding French words and antiquated them to seem as if from the sixteenth century. See Silverman Debora, “Art Nouveau, Art of Darkness: African Lineages of Belgian Modernism, Part III,” West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 20/1 (2013), 3–61, at 24–6, 51–2.

38 Émile Verhaeren, “La bourse,” in Les Campagnes hallucinées. Les Villes tentaculaires, 123–6, at 125.

39 Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” 330.

40 Émile Verhaeren, quoted in Theis, “Émile Verhaeren,” 360; Verhaeren, “La bourse”; Verhaeren, “L’âme de la ville,” in Verhaeren, Les Campagnes hallucinées: Les villes tentaculaires, 93.

41 Silverman, “Modernité Sans Frontières,” 781–6 n. 14.

42 “Antwerp,” census figures from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, online version; Edmond de Bruyn, “Anvers,” Notre pays, 1 (1905), 245–76; Robinson Wilfred C., Antwerp: An Historical Sketch (London, 1904), 278–80; Wauters Herman, De Semini-saga (Brasschaat, 2010), 51–60; Lt. Masui Th., Guide de l’état indépendant du Congo à l'Exposition de Bruxelles-Tervueren en 1897 (Brussels, 1897), 330–31; Silverman, “Art Nouveau, Art of Darkness, Part III,” 26–30.

43 Émile Verhaeren, “Le port,” in Gorceix, Fin de siècle et symbolisme, 246–8, at 247.

44 Émile Verhaeren, “La conquête,” in Gorceix, Fin de siècle et symbolisme, 280–82.

45 Émile Verhaeren, “Ma race,” in Gorceix, Fin de siècle et symbolisme, 285–6.

46 Georg Simmel, The Philosophy of Money, 111.

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Modern Intellectual History
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