A comparison of the mid-19th-century city in the poetry of Walt Whitman and Charles Baudelaire and their responses to the inescapable push of modernization
As New York and Paris began to modernize, new modes of entertainment, such as panoramas, dioramas, and photography, seemed poised to take the place of the more complex forms of literary expression. Dioramas and photography were invented in Paris but soon spread to America, forming part of an increasingly universal idiom of the spectacle. This brave new world of technologically advanced but crudely mimetic spectacles haunts both Whitman's vision of New York and Baudelaire's view of Paris. In New York-Paris, Katsaros explores the images of the mid-nineteenth-century city in the poetry of both Whitman and Baudelaire and seeks to demonstrate that, by projecting an image of the other's city onto his own, each poet tried to resist the apparently irresistible forward momentum of modernity rather than create a paradigmatically happy mixture of "high" and "low" culture.
Jacket art: Portrait of Walt Whitman, 1872, by G. Frank Pearsall. Used with permission from the Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations; Portrait of Charles Baudelaire, 1863, by Étienne Carjat. Used with permission from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris.
"The book, which is written in a deft—and sometimes rather poetic—prose style, makes some very interesting observations about both poets, and is theoretically astute. It is a thoroughly intelligent discussion of two towering 19th-century city poets, and one that makes a significant contribution to the body of critical literature on both. The excellent discussions of photography, panorama, and tableau lead directly to insights into the structures and intentions of both poets' work. This book is lively and illuminating."
—Tyler Hoffman, Rutgers