“Course in Poetics”, an unpublished work by Paul Valéry available in bookstores

“Course in Poetics”, an unpublished work by Paul Valéry available in bookstores

Writer Paul Valéry’s unpublished work, all his courses at the College de France, was published Thursday by Gallimard after it was thought to have been lost.

“Cours de poétique” is published in two volumes: “Le corps et l’esprit, 1937-1940” and “Le langue, la société, l’histoire, 1940-1945”.

Paul Valéry (1871-1945) was one of the most influential intellectuals of the inter-war period, and he is respected today, among other things, for his poetic work, including “Le Cimetière marin”.

The course at the Collège de France gives a very detailed insight into his conception of artistic and literary creation. It is cut by the tension between the freedom of inspiration and the need for form.

In January 1945, for example, during a course entitled “Advice to Young Writers,” he summed up: “If you do this work, if you write this book, you have developed some of your abilities to the limit, thus the very narrow work you do , first of all you have a chance to survive a little, to stand out in an era (…), but above all to gain something in yourself”.

Capital moment of literary and aesthetic reflection

This text carried the aura of myth for a long time, but never saw the light of day. Paul Valéry’s specialists suspected that there were, without knowing exactly where, transcriptions of those courses.

“Those from 1945 were lying, somewhat forgotten, in the Valéry collection of Jacques Doucet’s Literary Library. As for those from 1938, which no one knew existed, they were miraculously found in the archives of Gallimard’s editions,” describes the person who located them in detail is another professor at the College de France, William Marx.

Admitting that “Valéry’s teaching was rather dry”, he still sees in him “a major moment of literary and aesthetic reflection, an authentic monument of thought”.


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