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Responses to ModernityEssays in the Politics of Culture$
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Joseph Frank

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823239252

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823239252.001.0001

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Paul Valéry: Masters and Friends

Paul Valéry: Masters and Friends

(p.5) 1. Paul Valéry: Masters and Friends
Responses to Modernity

Joseph Frank

Fordham University Press

A large part of the published work of Paul Valéry consists of occasional literary and cultural reflections on the most varied and diverse topics. Valéry never approached any subject except in terms of his own peculiar intellectual concerns and philosophical preoccupations; and these were quite different from the historical and literary interests of the scholar or critic, as well as from the doctrines of the major philosophical currents in France during his lifetime. The first complex of ideas that may be noted in his essays derives from his early and crucial contact with the spiritual world of French Symbolism. Valéry was also persistently preoccupied with mysticism and other irrational currents of speculation such as illuminism and theosophy. For him, the art of the novel always remained identical with the naturalism he had rejected as a young man. Valéry evolved from the enchanted world of late Symbolist occultism to what might be called the aesthetic rationalism (or, more exactly, mathematicism) that constitutes the unique position of his maturity.

Keywords:   Paul Valéry, France, French Symbolism, mysticism, illuminism, theosophy, novel, realism, naturalism, aesthetic rationalism

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