Baudelaire’s Aesthetics and Ethics of Execution


“Poésie de charnier et d’abattoir” (Guyaux 147; “Poetry of mass graves and slaughterhouses”). This is the phrase with which Louis Goudall summarized the 18 poems that Baudelaire published under the title Les Fleursdu mal in the Revue des deux mondes in June 1855. That same year, with an essay titled “De l’Essence du rire et généralement du comique dans les arts plastiques” (“On the Essence of Laughter and on the Comic in the Plastic Arts Generally”), the poet took full responsibility for his peculiar thematic and imagistic tastes by declaring that the ugly was also home to beauty: “Chose curieuse et vraiment digne d’attention que l’introduction de cet élément insaisissable du beau jusque dans les œuvres destinées à représenter à l’homme sa propre laideur morale et physique! Et, chose non moins mystérieuse, ce spectacle lamentable excite en lui une hilarité immortelle et incorrigible.” (OC2: 526; A curious and truly attention worthy thing is the introduction of this unseizable element of the beautiful even in works destined to represent man’s own moral and physical ugliness to himself! And equally peculiar is the immortal and incorrigible hilarity that this lamentable spectacle excites in him!) The complete book of poems published in 1857 under the same title, Les Fleurs du mal, thoroughly illustrates this premise of the necessary relationship between the beautiful and human ugliness and depravity.


Mass Grave Extreme Violence Lethal Violence Artistic Ideality Modern Poet 
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Works Cited

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© Joseph Acquisto 2013

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