Writing Against Theodicy: Reflections on the Co-Existence of God and Evil in Baudelaire’s Poetry and Critical Essays

This article uncovers a sustained reflection in Baudelaire’s writings on the coexistence of God and evil. In the 1857 and 1861 editions of Les Fleurs du Mal, there is already a movement away from the divine in poems that depict evil as a more compelling concept and as the dominant force. In his critical writings and prose poems, Baudelaire increasingly engages in questions of theodicy to suggest the incompatibility of God and evil. This article describes an overarching system of writing “against theodicy” that links Baudelaire’s book reviews, art criticism, and essays on child psychology and psychedelic drugs, and that provides a conceptual framework for the shift in his poetics from romanticism to realism. As a textual analysis of these works demonstrates, Baudelaire’s writing “against theodicy” repeatedly leads his readers to draw the conclusion of God’s nonexistence in the face of the reality of evil. (smp)

Powers, Scott M.
Volume 2010-11 Fall-Winter; 39(1-2): 77-98