Between blasphemy and desire for the sacred. Modernist litanies à rebours

Joanna Majewska

Abstract


In the second half of the 19th century in the European culture appears an increased interest in evil. This phenomenon is widely spread particularly in France and England. In his famous volume of poems Les Fleurs du Mal  Charles Baudelaire publishes The Litanies for Satan where the Devil replaces God as the addressee of a blasphemous prayer. Joris-Karl Huysmans, an author of the novel Là-bas, describes a black mess and a litany addressed to Satan who seems to be closer to sinful people than perfectly indifferent God. A poet from the Huysmans’ artictic circle, Édouard Dubus, devotes his litany to a „Lady of grace and immorality” – a blasphemous double of Mary, mother of Jesus. An English poet Charles Algernon Swinburne writes Dolores, a poem addressed to „Our Lady of Pain” and recognised as the apogee of the satanic litany. In all these cases the choice of a litany as a literary genre results in acceptance of a vision of the world broaden with spirituality. In spite of their seemingly blasphemous plots, all these texts express a deep hunger for the sacred – the hunger that could not be satisfied with official religion.

Keywords


Baudelaire; Huysmans; Dubus; Swinburne; modernism; litany; blasphemy; Satan; God

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