"Knowledge of Nothing: On Apocalyptic Ekphrasis in The Flowers of Evil," Nathan Brown, associate professor of English, Canada Research Chair in Poetics, and director, Centre for Expanded Poetics, Concordia University, Montreal.
Nathan Brown is the author of three books: The Limits of Fabrication: Materials Science and Materialist Poetics (2017), Rationalist Empiricism: A Theory of Speculative Critique (2021), and Baudelaire's Shadow: An Essay on Poetic Determination. He is also the translator of a new edition of Baudelaire's The Flowers of Evil (2021).
In one of the key sonnets of Les Fleurs du mal, "Obsession," Baudelaire's speaker declares a resolute orientation toward the void:
How you would please me, o night! without these stars
Whose light speaks a language we know!
For I seek the void, and the black, and the bare!
Framing this orientation as the subtractive limit of spatial imagination in Baudelaire's work, this talk will consider the implications of such spatial negativity for the operation of ekphrasis. In particular, we will ask how certain works of apocalyptic ekphrasis enable Baudelaire to engage poetic impasses attendant upon figuring the void, and how ekphrastic representation might help us think through, from a literary perspective, the logic of negation.