Textual Self-branding: the Rhetorical Ethos in Mallarmé’s Divagations

  • Arild Michel Bakken (Sainte-Geneviève Library)


This article examines, from a rhetorical perspective, the textual presence of the auctorial figure in Mallarmé’s collection of prose writings, Divagations. It challenges the traditional and structuralist idea of Mallarmé as a poet eager to exclude his own persona from his work, and even as the initiator of the “death of the author.” Recent Mallarméan studies have been shifting the field’s attention away from the myth of the ivory tower to focus on the poet’s social project as it appears in the Divagations. Such a project presupposes a rhetorical commitment, and thus an auctorial presence in the text. The question that is raised here is then what role the figure of the poet plays in Mallarmé’s rhetorical strategy. A close rhetorical analysis of the Divagations reveals that the poet constantly, although discreetly, writes his own persona into the text. Throughout the Divagations, Mallarmé deploys much effort to give his persona qualities likely to win the support of his audience. It is argued that this manifest ethos preoccupation has a double function. The rhetorically efficient image of the poet is obviously intended to add authority to his social project. However, the poet’s constant cultivation of his textual figure shows that the ethos has gained a certain autonomy. An important preoccupation for the poet is in fact to brand himself as an author: contrary to the traditional idea of the absent poet, the auctorial figure seems to be one of the primary subjects of the Divagations. The argument thus invites us, in order to avoid overlooking this central aspect of Mallarmé’s project, to take the ethos perspective into account in any approach to Mallarmé’s prose work.

Keywords: Mallarmé, branding, authorship, rhetoric, ethos, Arild, Michel, Bakken

How to Cite:

Bakken, A., (2011) “Textual Self-branding: the Rhetorical Ethos in Mallarmé’s Divagations”, Authorship 1(1). doi:

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Published on
23 Nov 2011
Peer Reviewed