Anna Sigrídur Arnar: The Book as Instrument: Stéphane Mallarmé, The Artist’s Book, and The Transformation of Print Culture
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The French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–1898) is examined in this ambitious study by art historian Anna Sigrídur Arnar. Arnar approaches Mallarmé from the viewpoint of cultural history with a particular focus on the social dimensions of illustrated books and book history in general. Mallarmé is an ideal candidate for this approach due to his commitment to the book; he pondered the book’s possibilities and limitations in several essays, as well as in correspondence and other statements. Often, he depicted the book from a utopian viewpoint, deeming it the most adequate forum for debates about democracy (among other issues).
Following her introduction, Arnar’s study is divided into four main parts. The first part, “Defining the Book”, situates Mallarmé’s work within the historical context. Arnar argues that Mallarmé has often been misunderstood as an elitist author, an auteur difficile, whose texts were considered obscure by contemporaries and later critics. While Arnar agrees...