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(pärnăs`ēənz), group of 19th-century French poets, so called from their journal the Parnasse contemporain. Issued from 1866 to 1876, it included poems of Leconte de Lisle, Banville, Sully-Prudhomme, Verlaine, Coppée, and J. M. de Heredia. The Parnassians were influenced by Théophile GautierGautier, Théophile
, 1811–72, French poet, novelist, and critic. He was a leading exponent of "art for art's sake"—the belief that formal, aesthetic beauty is the sole purpose of a work of art.
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 and his doctrine of "art for art's sake." In reaction to the looser forms of romantic poetry, they strove for exact and faultless workmanship, selecting exotic and classical subjects which they treated with rigidity of form and emotional detachment.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Parnasse), the name of a group of French poets. The group’s name took hold after the publication of the anthology Le Parnasse contemporain (Modern Parnassus) in 1866. The leader of the Parnassians was C. Leconte de Lisle.

Rejecting romantic rebellion, criticism of reality, and the sentimental lyricism of the past, the Parnassians preached withdrawal from modern life into the world of “dispassionate” poetry, and they called for new forms and a new poetic language. As G. V. Plekhanov observed, this was a “bourgeois rejection of bourgeois banality” (Plekhanov, Iskusstvo i literatura, 1948, p. 308). The idea of “art for art’s sake,” which had already been expressed by T. Gautier, became the Parnassians’ program. Their first collection (18 issues, March-July 1866) contained the work of 37 poets, many of whom were novices (for example, P. Verlaine and S. Mallarmé). The collection met with success, but it also caused disputes, evoked criticism from E. Zola and the brothers E. de Goncourt and J. de Goncourt, and inspired pamphlets and parodies.

The cult of form led the Parnassians to political and moral indifferentism. Disagreements among the members of the group were exacerbated by the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) and the Paris Commune of 1871. For example, Verlaine, L.-X. de Ricard, and A. Glatigny joined the Commune, but F. Coppée and C. Mendès reconciled themselves to the reaction. The Parnassians’ second collection (1871) included works by 55 poets of various schools. (The young A. France was a Parnassian.) The third and last collection, which came out in 1876, resembles anthologies of modern Frech poetry. Despite the ideological limitations of Parnassian aesthetics, the group’s most talented representatives greatly enriched French poetry of the late 19th century.


Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956. Pages 582–98.
France, A. Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 8. Moscow, 1960.
Martino, P. Parnasse et symbolisme, 7th ed. Paris, 1947.
Ricard, L.-X. de. “Petits mémoires d’un Parnassien.” In A. Racot, Les Parnassiens. Paris, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The poetry of the Parnassians held the following objectives to be of primary importance: perfection of form -- in the sense that the same importance to form was necessary for the poet as for the sculptor.
Along with medieval fixed forms, de Banville and the Parnassians also promoted the late-medieval poetic device of rime riche--rhyme produced by agreement in sound not only of the last accented vowel and any succeeding sounds but also the consonant preceding this vowel (for example, "night ...
(3) While the dedication offers the reader clues about the poet's aesthetic and ideological formation, the choices of the art works also mark the cultural milieu in which Machado was operating, a milieu that included traces of the Parnassian and Decadent currents that had profoundly impacted European letters.
Inevitably, a major focal point of any biography of Rimbaud is his scandalous relationship with Paul Verlaine, the married and respected member of the Parnassian poets.
Baudelaire first appears in Degeneration as a degenerate exhibiting the symptoms characteristic of the Parnassians and Diabolists (pp.
University men are in competition for places in the writing field with men who lack formal qualifications--the Parnassus plays come from the perspective of the placeless educated--and the Parnassians' final rejection of the world of professional writing represents a despairing recognition that those qualifications no longer provide guarantees of success in an increasingly open and contentious market.
Poems of sexual intensity and vital friendship are clustered near the front of the collection and include "Little Fallacy," "Declaration Day," "Morning Glory," "Serenade," "David's Watercolor," "The Parnassians," "Hindu Illumination," "Ginger Beef," and "A Room at the Heart of Things," all poems which commingle erotic, lyric, and spatial intensity.
With only a few savage but well-aimed swings of his rhetorical wrecking ball he seemed to fracture and upend all the flimsy subterfuges of the Parnassians among whom, to his signal disgust, he found himself whenever he fled to Paris from dreary Charleville.
Parnassius smintheus like many Parnassians is typical of mountainous areas.
French-Canadian poet who was the primary force behind the founding of the Montreal Literary School (1895), a group of Symbolists and Aesthetes who reacted against the traditional Canadian themes of patriotism and local color and, following the Parnassians, espoused the principle of art for art's sake.
During its early stages modernism tended to disassociate itself from the Spanish tradition and seek inspiration in the French Parnassians and symbolists.