Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–98) was a French Symbolist poet, theorist, and teacher whose ideas and legendary salons set the stage for twentieth-century experimentation in poetry, music, theater and art. A canonical figure in the legacy of modernism, Mallarmé was also a lifelong champion of the book as both a literary endeavor and a carefully crafted material object.
In The Book as Instrument, Anna Sigrídur Arnar explores how this object functioned for Mallarmé and his artistic circle, arguing that the book became a strategic site for encouraging a modern public to actively partake in the creative act, an idea that informed later twentieth-century developments such as conceptual and performance art. Arnar demonstrates that Mallarmé was invested in creating radically empowering reading experiences, and the diverse modalities he proposed for both reading and looking anticipate interactive media prevalent in today’s culture. In describing the world of books, visual culture, and mass media of the late nineteenth century, Arnar touches upon an array of themes that continues to preoccupy us in our own moment, including speculations on the future of the book. Enhanced by gorgeous illustrations, The Book as Instrument is sure to fascinate anyone interested in the ever-vibrant experiment between word and image that makes the page and the multi-sensory pleasures of reading.
Berkshire Conference of Women Historians: Berkshire Conference First Book Prize - Women Historians
Dedalus Foundation: Robert Motherwell Book Award for outstanding publication in the history and criticism of modernism in the arts
Review by Britany Salsbury
At a moment saturated by discussion about the death of print, as magazines and newspapers fall victim to blogs and the Kindle is the cultural artifact par excellence, it is difficult to grasp the boldly utopian aspirations that Stéphane Mallarmé held for the book in fin-de-siècle France.
Review by Corinna Norrick-Rühl
Corinna Norrick-Rühl, Institute for book studies, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany. Publishing Research Quarterly June 28 2012 (0nline review, Springer Verlag DOI: 10.1007/s12109-012-9277-0).
Print Quarterly, vol. XXIX, no. 3
Review by Jean Khalfa
(September 2012): 350-53.