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Reimagining the Gesamtkunstwerk: Guillaume Apollinaire's A quelle heure partira-t-il un train pour Paris?

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posted on 2023-09-07, 05:06 authored by Caitlin Glosser

Guillaume Apollinaire has long played a central role in the history of modern art as a critic who championed several of the avant-garde movements of the early twentieth century. However, his own artistic production--his poetic calligrammes and his multimedia theatrical spectacles--rarely play more than an ancillary role in art-historical scholarship on this period. Traditionally placed within the framework of literary studies, these works straddle, and even at times collapse, the boundaries between artistic genres. This thesis traces Apollinaire's experimentation with the fusion of artistic media through a close reading of one such work, A quelle heure partira-t-il un train pour Paris? (What Time Does a Train Leave for Paris?). Written in 1914, this theatrical work uses an intermedial structure to disrupt conventional art forms and to directly engage its imagined spectators--even to invest viewers with an authorial role in the co-creation of the work. I argue that Apollinaire's synthesis of artistic genres should be considered a modern reimagining of Richard Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk or "total artwork." Examining the development of Apollinaire's ideal total artwork from his calligrammes to the play, I demonstrate how A quelle heure merges multiple artistic genres to construct a paradoxically simultaneous, yet fragmented theatrical experience.



American University


Degree awarded: M.A. Art. American University


Degree grantor

American University. Department of Art

Degree level

  • Masters

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