Roll Over Descartes: Re-thinking Thought, Poetry, and Creativity in Rimbaud’s Visionary “Seer” Letters

By Kenneth DiMaggio.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Theory and History

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Late 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud wrote two masterpieces of poetry, “Illuminations,” and “A Season in Hell,” before the age of 21. His vision as a poet was defined in two letters known today as the Seer letters, where he rethinks thought, poetry, and creativity in a manner that had not been conceived of before. For Rimbaud, poetry is an act of liberation as well as aesthetic experience. Creativity is a journey that can end in a “derangement of all the senses.” Cogito Ergo Sum—“I think therefore I am”—now gets challenged as “I is somebody else.” At the end of his second and last Seer letter, Rimbaud has also reconstructed cognitive, creative, and poetic theory. As his recent biographer, Graham Robb has noted about the first Seer letter: “it contained the equation that has often been treated as the poetic E = mc2” while the second letter “is a gripping piece of literary criticism, a curious, plausible attempt to reconcile the two antagonistic trends of nineteenth century poetry.”

Keywords: Rimbaud, Poetry, Creativity

The International Journal of Arts Theory and History, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.119-126. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 212.067KB).

Kenneth DiMaggio

Professor of Humanities, Humanities, Capital Community College, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

I am a professor of Humanities at Capital Community College in Hartford USA where I teach composition, literature, and creative writing. I am presently writing a book on various theories of artistic creativity, of which one chapter is based on the paper I am presenting at this conference.