Rimbaud and Jim Morrison

The Rebel as Poet

Rimbaud and Jim Morrison

Book Pages: 144 Illustrations: 8 b&w photographs, 2 line draw Published: June 1994

Author: Wallace Fowlie

Literature and Literary Studies > Poetry, Music > Popular Music

"The poet makes himself into a visionary by a long derangement of all the senses."—Rimbaud

In 1968 Jim Morrison, founder and lead singer of the rock band the Doors, wrote to Wallace Fowlie, a scholar of French literature and a professor at Duke University. Morrison thanked Fowlie for producing an English translation of the complete poems of Rimbaud. He needed the translation, he said, because, "I don’t read French that easily. . . . I am a rock singer and your book travels around with me." Fourteen years later, when Fowlie first heard the music of the Doors, he recognized the influence of Rimbaud in Morrison’s lyrics.

In Rimbaud and Jim Morrison Fowlie, a master of the form of the memoir, reconstructs the lives of the two youthful poets from a personal perspective. In their twinned stories he discovers an uncanny symmetry, a pattern far richer than the simple truth that both led lives full of adventure and both made poetry of their thirst for the liberation of the self. The result is an engaging account of the connections between an exceptional French symbolist who gave up writing poetry at the age of twenty, died young, and whose poems are still avidly read to this day, and an American rock musician whose brief career ignited an entire generation and has continued to fascinate millions around the world in the twenty years since his death in Paris. In this dual portrait, Fowlie gives us a glimpse of the affinities and resemblances between European literary traditions and American rock music and youth culture in the late twentieth century.

A personal meditation on two unusual, yet emblematic, cultural figures, this book also stands as a summary of a noted scholar’s lifelong reflections on creative artists.


Rimbaud and Jim Morrison retraces Wallace Fowlie’s personal itinerary as much as it opens new doors to critical inquiry. This refreshing and lively volume combines the personal and the universal, the analytical and the descriptive, the canonical and the secular.” — Pierre J. Lapaire, French Review

"I have little doubt Jim Morrison would be both flattered by and proud of Wallace Fowlie’s analytic literary analysis of his poetry and lyrics. It was a 19-year-old Jim Morrison who wrote Mr. Fowlie to thank him for translating his hero Arthur Rimbaud into English from French and it would be a grateful Jim Morrison who would thank Wallace Fowlie today for tracing and linking his work with such a distinguished poetic heritage." — Danny Sugerman, author of Wonderland Avenue


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

At the time of his death, Wallace Fowlie was James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of French Literature at Duke University. He is the author and translator of thirty books, including Rimbaud: A Critical Study and The Complete Works of Rimbaud, a translation. This is the fifth volume in a series of memoirs, Memory, Sites, Aubade, and Journal of Rehearsals, all published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
I. My Journal on the Two Rebel Artists 1

II. Rimbaud 35

III. Jim Morrison 73

IV. Conclusions: Masks of the Modern Antihero—Rimbaud and Jim Morrison 119

Bibliography 127

Index 129
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1445-5
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