Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

200 × 130 × 16 mm
256 pages
49 illustrations
01 Nov 2007
Critical Lives
  • £11.99

  • This edition is currently unavailable

Jean Cocteau James Williams

From the magical Beauty and the Beast to the surreal Orpheus films, Jean Cocteau is renowned as a leading figure in European cinema as well as a creative force collaborating with artists as diverse as Picasso, Diaghilev and Edith Piaf. Yet Cocteau’s work and life have rarely been examined together. Evaluating Cocteau’s career and his fascinating personal life on equal terms, James S. Williams offers here a groundbreaking analysis that sets them both within highly revealing historical and artistic contexts. James S. Williams’s biographical investigation of this poet, dramatist, novelist, designer, and filmmaker centres around Cocteau’s constant self-questioning and how it permeated his work.

From Cocteau’s work in fashion and photography to his formal experimentation, to his extensive collaborations with male friends and lovers, the book charts the complex and unpredictable evolution of his work and aesthetic. Williams argues that Cocteau’s body of work is best viewed as an ethical, erotic project of aesthetics that carries important ramifications for our contemporary understanding of being and subjectivity.

An engaging and wholly accessible account, Jean Cocteau is essential reading for all those fascinated by the man and his unforgettable work.

‘comprehensive and easily accessible . . . Williams painstakingly crafts a seminal study on the life and art of Jean Cocteau with a flair for language and a scholarly knowledge of his subject’ — Film Matters

‘[a] highly absorbing account of Cocteaus colourful, yet troubled life leaves the reader eager to (re)visit the work of one of the most fascinating artists of the twentieth century.’ — French Studies

‘This sturdy, compact and fast-moving survey of Cocteaus life and work runs from his precocious false start as a poet in the style of Anna de Noailles, through his reinvention as a radical modernist after inspirational meetings with Diaghilev and Picasso, and the fulfilment of his new life project in his subsequent long career as a poet working in verse, prose, theatre, art and film . . . neatly illustrated and requires no knowledge of French’ — Forum for Modern Language Studies

‘another welcome addition to the still relatively limited critical literature on this important figure . . . this is an approachable and well-illustrated text, which will cause its readers to look at Cocteau in a new and more favourable light, and is an important contribution to the reassessment of the author that is currently under way.’ — Modern Language Review

‘Well-written and well-paced . . . A good summation of Cocteaus significance as a gay artist.’ — The Gay and Lesbian Review

Show all

James S. Williams is Professor of Modern French Literature and Film at Royal Holloway, University of London, and is the author of Jean Cocteau (French Film Directors series, 2006).

Introduction: The Living Artist and the Posthumous Work
1. Paradise Lived and Lost
2. Natural-born Legend
3. Prince in Exile
4. Russian Lessons
5. Cocteau's First War
6. The Greatest Battle
7. Happy Families
8. Genius of France
9. A Child Carrying a Cane
10. Annus Mirabilis / Annus Miserabilis
11. Lost in the Wilderness
12. An Ass Bearing the Lord
13. Miracle or Simulacrum?
14. Body and Blood of a Poet
15. Tripping Across the World
16. Enter Apollo
17. World War Redux
18. No Man's Land
19. Club Santo-Sospir
20. The Long Haul
21. Jean Cocteau is Dead, Long Live Cocteau!
Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements