19th century French poetry and popular culture – Caroline Ardrey


I’m Dr Caroline Ardrey, I’m a lecturer in
French and I work within the Department of Modern Languages here at the University of
Birmingham. My research focus is really on 19th century
French poetry and its interaction with other artforms. and I’m particularly interested
in fashion, in music and the way in which 19th century French poetry talks to popular
culture, both of its own time and contemporary popular culture as well. My research career started out really when
I got interested in 19th century French poetry and in particular the work of a guy called
Stéphane Mallarmé. So what I’ve always loved about poetry is that it’s like a puzzle. It’s
like a riddle and I love trying to crack that riddle. Luckily for me, Stéphane Mallarmé wasn’t
just a poet he wrote about lots of other things including fashion. He actually wrote a fashion
magazine back in 1874 and I was really interested in the language of fashion – so the words
that he used to describe dresses, to describe culture and to talk about the theatre as well
and I’ve set about comparing the language which he used in his poems with the language
of fashion. More recently I’ve been working with Professor
Helen Abbott on the Baudelaire Song Project. This looks at the work of another 19th century
French poet, a fairly well-known poet called Charles Baudelaire. And Baudelaire is relatively
well-known. He’s been set to music a lot of times but he’s also been a source of interest
for musicians from Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones to more recent musicians like PJ Harvey,
Goldfrapp and even the Red Hot Chili Peppers have referenced Baudelaire. But he’s been set to music by lots of rock
and roll musicians as well and by popular musicians and rappers. And I’m just really
interested in what it was that drew these musicians to Baudelaire and how that they
had created an identity for the poet within their own popular cultures. So that’s what I’m working on at the moment,
just trying to unpick that relationship between popular culture and 19th century French poetry
which might not be obvious to everyone but it definitely underlying what keeps reviving
the work that’s being done around 19th century literature.

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