Study Guide

Paul Valéry - Major Arguments

Major Arguments

I was just too precise to be a major argument kind of guy, but there were definitely some grand intellectual ideas of mine floating around that are worth mentioning.

  • If you read my 512-line Alexandrine poem "La jeune Parque," you can skip to the next line; but if you haven't read it, just know that it is totally into life and death and all of the complex questions that surround these issues—such as fear of death and the downsides of immortality.
  • I actually supported the idea of having a dictator at one point, because I just felt like someone needed to grab the bull by the horns in Europe. We needed a man of action, as I discuss in "Notes on the Greatness and Decline of Europe." I also saw artists as versions of dictators themselves.
  • To me, language and writing were humans' way—and especially my way—of getting a grip.
  • I composed my own literary declaration, "On Literary Technique," in which I announced, "Literature is the art of playing on the soul of others. It is with this scientific brutality that the problem of the aesthetics of the Word… has been set for our age" (source), which is just another way of saying that I took words very seriously and thought they were no less important than major scientific interests.
  • One of my more-off-the-grid literary accomplishments was the creation of the protagonist "Monsieur Teste," whose machine-like mind allowed him to make superhuman connections with the minds of others. M. Teste was preoccupied with his own ability to "handle, combine, [and] transform" others (source).

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