Parnassianism: what it is, how it arose, main characteristics and authors


What is Parnassianism?

Under the term Parnassianism was known one of the most important literary movements of French origin that emerged during the second half of the nineteenth century, between 1850 and 1876. Parnassianism was seen as a reaction against poetic subjectivism, since the movement advocated objectivity and the search for impersonality, mainly, as well as a rejection of the poetic “I”.

What is Parnassianism

In other words, Parnassianism constituted a literary school in France in which perfection was favored beyond sentimentalism or romanticism, axes that were isolated from the poetic creations of the movement. This allowed the authors to give special importance to art in which external themes remained on another plane. In many cases Parnassianism was considered a deviation from romanticism, also contrary to naturalism and realism.

How did Parnassianism come about?

The founders of Parnassianism were Leconte de Lisle and Théophile Gautier. The term, of Greek origin, refers to Parnassus, the place where Apollo’s companions stayed, as well as the goddesses and muses who inspired art. Thus, the aesthetics announced by the founders took place from the publication of works and publications that took place in La Revue Fantaisiste, L’Art, Revue du Progrès, Polythéisme Hellénique, La Légende du Parnasse Contemporain, among others.

A decisive aspect to be considered about the emergence of the movement had to do with the influence it received from Symbolism, a movement we have already talked about in another section. In this sense, Parnassianism will also take elements from the essence of symbolism, the poets malitos and also from another of the fundamental currents of literature, modernism.

Development of literature during Parnassianism

One of the central axes on which this movement develops is directly related to the way in which they rigorously take care of the form in its creation. Thus, in Parnassianism, the authors, particularly the poets, treat the work as a piece of great value and unique. In this sense, they move away from any possible use of literature, since they considered that the purpose of their works was precisely the expression of beauty and thus, it could only be the object of admiration.

Poetry, being the main genre of the movement, had to be directly objective, leaving aside any tinge of poetic emotion and taking classical poetry as a point of inspiration. That is why it is often possible to identify references to art, to classical antiquity and Greek art.

Main characteristics of Parnassianism

Among the main features on which it is possible to identify this movement in the literary field, we find the following according to its initial bases and which gave rise to a great production in literary creation:

Descriptive poetry

One of the most important points that characterized Parnassianism had to do mainly with descriptivism, given that at this time there is an inclination for the so-called descriptive poetry, also known as picturesque poetry.

Art for art’s sake

Under this expression and principle that arises in the idealist aesthetics is present individualism as a way of opposing realism that includes a freedom of art or artistic freedom. Thus in the works of Parnassianism emanates an autonomy of the work of any feature of subjectivity or emotion of the author.

Pessimistic philosophy

The type of philosophy addressed by this literary movement is a pessimistic philosophy that is expressed in the breakdown of dreams, as well as of cultures and ideals. In this process, aspects such as the despair of the soul, as well as what became known as liberating death, are exposed.

Vision of the world

For the poets of Parnassianism, the world and the role of nature only fulfill the function of locating events or facilitating description. These artists observe nature under the notion of something artificial, since they use it only for the expression of poetry.

Pursuit of beauty

Within the literary creation of Parnassianism, the author aims at formal perfection and in this sense, beauty becomes the absolute ideal. To reach it, he uses an extremely rigorous metric in which poetic forms are not taken into consideration, but are subject to an important control based on classical metrics, which is why the sonnet will be one of its most frequent elements.

Absence of social commitment

Since the main quest undertaken by the writers of Parnassianism is beauty, aspects such as social commitment or political commitment are absent from their interests. In this sense, the authors of the movement considered that art should not have a character of utility, nor should it be educational or moral. Their interest and creation are oriented towards the creation of beauty.

Most important authors of Parnassianism

Most important authors of Parnassianism

Among the most representative, in addition to its precursors Théodore de Banville and Théophile Gautier, are others such as François Coppée, Léon Dierx, Louis Ménard, Armand Silvestre, Leconte de Lisle, Catulle Mendès, Albert Glatigny, Sully Prudhomme, José Maria de Heredia, louis-Xavier de Ricard, Emmanuel des Essarts, Ernest D’Hervilly, André Lemoyne, Léon Valade, Émile Bergerat, André Theuriet, Émile Blémont, Robert de Bonnières, Paul Bourget, Auguste Lacaussade, Louise Collet, Philoxène Boyer, Auguste Vacquerie, Henry Winter, Armand Renaud, Eugène Lefébure, Edmond Lepelletier, Auguste De Châtillon, Jules Forni, Charles Coran, Eugène Villemin, Robert Luzarche, Alexandre Piedagnel, Francis Tesson, Gabriel Marc, Alexis Martin,

And we cannot leave aside the main symbolists who started inspired by Parnassianism, such as Stéphane Mallarmé, Auguste Villiers De L’Isle-Adam, Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine.

As for the most important works, we can highlight the following: Meridionais, Verses and Rhymes, Poetry by Adalberto de Oliveira, Chronicles and Novels, Criticism of Fantasy, Literary Lectures by Olavo Bilac, Symphonies, Verses and Verses, Alleluias by Raimundo Correia, Correspondences by Charles Baudelaire, The Bath by Antonio de Zayas and Fanfarras by Teófilo Díaz, among others.

And so we come to the end of another of the most important literary movements in this artistic field. Remember that if you want to know more about other literary movements and currents, as well as genres, authors, types of literature and more, you can find all this and more information in our section dedicated to this artistic expression.