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The Total Work of Art in European Modernism$
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David Roberts

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450235

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450235.001.0001

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The Symbolist Mystery

The Symbolist Mystery

(p.123) 6 The Symbolist Mystery
The Total Work of Art in European Modernism

David Roberts

Cornell University Press

This chapter considers the reception of the idea of the total work of art in European symbolism, as it is reflected, on the one hand, in the tributes in the media of sculpture, painting, literature, and music; and on the other, in Mallarmé’s and in Scriabin’s ambition to surpass Wagner by creating the absolute and ultimate work. It argues that Mallarmé’s Book can only gesture toward the unrealizable idea of the total work of art. It is also an appropriate complement and antithesis to Scriabin’s Dionysian version of dematerialization in his Mysterium, which was to bring about the ecstatic realization—through return to the godhead—of the universal correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm.

Keywords:   work of art, European symbolism, Alexander Scriabin, Stéphane Mallarmé, synaesthesia, Proust, correspondence

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