The Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths University of London

Research Centre run jointly between the Departments of Sociology and English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths University, London


Baudelaire and Philosophy

About the Seminar

CPCT’s annual research seminar meets on a bi-weekly basis and is open to centre members, graduate affiliates, and other interested staff and students. It aims to serve as a forum for philosophical work and dialogue at Goldsmiths.

This year’s seminar is dedicated to the encounters between philosophy and the poetic and critical writings of Charles Baudelaire. Baudelaire is a pivotal reference for debates on modernity, criticism and poetics, though in the domains of critical theory his work is often approached solely through the prism of contemporary commentary. Baudelaire’s own engagement with the philosophical – for instance in his pairing of Joseph de Maistre and Edgar Allan Poe as critics of the metaphysics of “progress” – has also been insufficiently mined. The seminar will alternate sessions delving into specific poetic and critical texts by Baudelaire with ones that tackle some of the key interpretations and uses of his work within philosophy and critical theory, from Bataille to Derrida, Benjamin to Rancière. The seminar aims to do justice to the richness, complexity and ambiguity of Baudelaire’s critical and poetic writing, to explore his relation to philosophy and the philosophical, and to interrogate his place as a synonym for a certain conception of modernity.

We will be using the following editions of Baudelaire’s works in translation:

– Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil (includes parallel French text). A new translation by James McGowan. Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford: OUP, 1993; 1998; 2008).

– Baudelaire, Selected Writings on Art and Literature. Translated by P. E. Charvet. Penguin Classics. (London: Penguin, 1972; 1992; 2006).

Convened by Alberto Toscano and Julia Ng.

All meetings will take place on Wednesdays from 4:00-6:00pm in RHB 355.

A detailed session plan including links to readings is available here.


Oct 3 — Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life; “Counterfeit Money”

Oct 17 — Jacques Derrida, Given Time: Counterfeit Money v. 1

Oct 31 — Michel Foucault, What is Enlightenment?

Nov 14 — Baudelaire, Fusées/Mon Coeur Mis à Nu [Intimate Journals]; ‘Edgar Poe, sa vie et ses oeuvres’

Dec 12 — Jean-Paul Sartre, Baudelaire


Jan 23 — Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal / The Flowers of Evil

Feb 6 — Georges Bataille, Literature and Evil

Feb 20 — Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil; Posthumous Fragments; Baudelaire, “Richard Wagner and Tannhäuser in Paris”

Mar 6 — Baudelaire, Le Spleen de Paris

Mar 20 — Walter Benjamin, On Baudelaire

May 8 — Jacques Rancière, Le fil perdu

May 22 — Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Manet

June 5 — Baudelaire, “De l’essence du rire” / “Of the Essence of Laughter”; Paul de Man, “The Rhetoric of Temporality”

June 19 — Jean-Luc Nancy, Intoxication; Baudelaire, Les paradis artificiels