"Le Temps rhumain": Time in the work of Philippe Beck

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‘Le temps rhumain’: time in the work of Philippe Beck
The work of Philippe Beck, who has published sixteen volumes of poetry and poetic prose since the mid-1990s, does not fit into either of the two broad currents dominating French poetic production: the ‘new lyricism’ and ‘objective’ poetry. His writing has been described as hermetic, and it is frequently elliptical and allusive. This paper focuses on two publications of 2007, Un journal and Chants populaires, in order to establish what they reveal about his conception of time and the ways in which time is embodied in his work. Two central features of his writing – impersonality and citation – might seem to imply a focus on simultaneity, if the je is taken out of the linearity of an individual human life and the use of quotation assembles the words of others, from different times and places, in a simultaneous present. Meanwhile, Beck’s interest in rhythm, the third feature to be examined, might appear to indicate that his time will be the unfolding of the poem. However, I shall argue that time in his work differs from both of these models and that he aims at producing what he names ‘le temps rhumain’ that is neither linear nor simultaneous, neither outside human experience nor bound to teleological progression. Disruption and hesitation characterise this time, which demands re-readings, both of the poems and of the reader him- or herself.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-235
Number of pages13
JournalFrench Forum
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012


  • Philippe Beck, time