Parnassianism (or less commonly parnasism) was a literary style characteristic of certain French poetry during the positivist period of the 19th century, occurring between romanticism and symbolism. The name is derived from the original Parnassian poets' journal, "Le Parnasse contemporain", itself named after Mount Parnassus, home of the Muses in Greek mythology. The anthology was issued between 1866 to 1876, including poems by Charles Leconte de Lisle, Théodore de Banville, Sully-Prudhomme, Stephane Mallarmé, Paul Verlaine, François Coppée and José María de Heredia.

The Parnassians were influenced by Théophile Gautier and his doctrine of "art for art's sake". In reaction to the looser forms of romantic poetry, and what they saw as excessive sentimentality and undue social and political activism in Romantic works, the Parnassians strove for exact and faultless workmanship, selecting exotic and classical subjects which they treated with rigidity of form and emotional detachment. Elements of this detachment were derived from the philosophical work of Arthur Schopenhauer.

Despite its French origins, Parnassianism does not restrict itself to France alone. Perhaps the most idiosyncratic of Parnassians, Olavo Bilac was an author from Brazil who managed to carefully craft verses and metre while still keeping a strong feel of emotion to them. Antoni Lange was a conspicuous representative of Polish Parnassianism.

Gerard Manley Hopkins used the term "Parnassian" to describe competent but uninspired poetry, where a talented poet is merely operating on auto-pilot. He identified this trend particularly in the work of Alfred Tennyson, citing the poem Enoch Arden as an example.

French Parnassianism had a decisive influence on the Latin American literary current known as Modernismo, whose leading light was the notable Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío.

See also

* French literature
* French poetry
* Latin American literature
* Parnassian Society

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