Colloques & Conferences de l'Universite Lyon 2, Modernism and Unreadability / Modernisme et Illisibilite

Browning : Modernism & Unreadability

Jean-Charles Perquin

Temps: 2008-10-24  02:00  – 02:35
Dernière modification: 2008-07-07


In spite of the mutual incomprehension between Victorian poetry and modernist poetry, mainly justified by the radical differences of their aesthetic programmes and ambitions, there is one Victorian epic poem which the immense majority of XXth century readers considered as wholly unreadable and which modern readers and poets alike often considered as the best model and source of inspiration for XXth century poets, Browning's Sordello. The long, least-read epic poem was the last in a series of three major works that respectively explored the three modes of poetry.
Far beyond the naive belief that the general contempt Sordello fell victim to provided modernism with the ideal ally against an outmoded poetics it wanted to undermine, I would like to analyse how Sordello became totally unreadable for Victorian readers and highly experimental for modern readers and poets alike. Unsurprisingly enough, such poets as Ezra Pound repeatedly defended Browning's epic masterpiece against unanimous accusations of difficulty, obscurity, and unreadability.