In early 1859, almost two years after the first publication of Les Fleurs du mal [The Flowers of Evil], the French poet Charles Baudelaire enjoyed a period of rich creativity while staying at his mother’s house in the seaside town of Honfleur. It was here, overlooking the Seine as it flows into the English Channel that Baudelaire wrote “Le voyage” or “The Journey,” the poem which begins:

Pour l’enfant, amoureux de cartes et d’estampes,
L’univers est égal à son vaste appétit.
Ah! que le monde est grand à la clarté des lampes!
Aux yeux du souvenir que le monde est petit!

For the child enthralled by prints and maps,
The universe is equal to their vast appetite.
Oh! how limitless is the world under the light of the lamp,
How the world shrinks in the eyes of memory!

The poem ends with the famous lines:

Nous voulons, tant ce feu nous brûle le cerveau,
Plonger au fond du gouffre, Enfer ou Ciel, qu’importe?
Au fond de l’Inconnu pour trouver du nouveau!

We desire, now that this fire has burned our brains,
To Plunge into the abyss, Hell or Heaven, who cares?
Deep into the Unknown to find the new!

Taking this poem as its point of departure, the Yale French Department proposes to mark the recent bicentenary of the great poet’s birth with “Baudelaire’s Worlds,” a one-day international conference that will explore the panoramas opened up by Baudelaire’s incomparable poetic oeuvre.

The conference will bring together leading experts of Baudelaire’s work as well as specialists of other languages and literatures from Yale and further afield to reflect on the presence of Baudelaire both inside and outside the metropolitan French canon.

Topics to be considered will include the different worlds traversed by the poet, whether in person or in the mind; the figures of exoticism and travel in his poetic and critical writing; the global repercussions of his reflections on painting and photography; as well as more recent mediations of Baudelaire across the world, in the Caribbean, the Maghreb, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean, Europe, and the Americas, whether in French or in other languages.

For any questions regarding “Baudelaire’s Worlds,” please contact:
Thomas C. Connolly, Associate Professor of French, Yale University
at: thomas.c.connolly@yale.edu

With the support of The Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund and  the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States.


Eugène Boudin, Ciel nuageux au-dessus d’une mer calme, gouache blanche sur papier beige, 1855-1862. Paris, Musée d’Orsay