Baudelaire
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: HiLo Heroes

Though he was a ferocious critic (from an illiberal vantage point) of the newly triumphant middle-class — its aesthetics and morals, but also its politics and economics — the brilliant litterateur CHARLES BAUDELAIRE (1821-67) was dismissed by his contemporaries as an ironical fop devoted to gothic spookiness and opiated visions. In fact, Baudelaire was an engaged ironist and aesthete who (like Adorno, or Žižek) expressed horror at the bourgeoisie’s sinister, alienating ability to relocate coercion within spontaneity, authority within liberty. Why did Baudelaire cast his lot with the déclassés of Paris, those unrevolutionary bohemians whom Marx dismissed as “decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin”? Because they were uncoercable losers! In his neither-Romantic-nor-Modernist poetry and prose poetry, Baudelaire’s ennui (a morbid fascination with the passage of time), as well as his spleen (the sensation of being crushed under an overcast sky, or penned in by raindrops forming cell bars), were — I’ve suggested — a visceral reaction to the emergent proto-neoliberalism of early 19th century France. In his life, Baudelaire’s dandyism and flâneurie were a form of guerrilla street theater — an advertisement for extase, which is to say freedom from clock-time; and volupté, freedom from the invisible prison we all inhabit, within which one must make oneself useful, or disappear.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Paul Robeson and Valerie Solanas.

READ MORE about members of the Retrogressivist generation (1815-24).

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Joshua Glenn is an author, publisher, and semiotic analyst. He is co-author (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) of THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and co-author (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) of the family activities guide UNBORED and three forthcoming spinoffs, including UNBORED Games. He is editor of HILOBROW and publisher of the Radium Age science fiction imprint HiLoBooks. Also: Glenn manages a secretive online community known as the Hermenautic Circle; he is founding editor of the e-book club Save the Adventure; and he's a frequent co-host of Boing Boing's podcast GWEEK. In the ’00s, Glenn was an editor, columnist, and blogger for the Boston Globe's IDEAS section, he co-founded the international semiotics website SEMIONAUT, and contributed to CABINET, SLATE, and elsewhere. In the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT, worked as a dotcom and magazine editor, and contributed to THE BAFFLER, FEED, and elsewhere. His publishing company is King Mixer, LLC; and his semiotic analysis consultancy is Semiovox LLC. He lives in Boston with his wife and children.