The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018
Parnassians: Originally, a group of French poets active in the latter half of the nineteenth century who sought to produce impersonal, objective poetry, emphasizing form and minimizing authorial presence. Influenced by French writer Théophile Gautier, who argued that art has no utilitarian value in the preface to his novel Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835), the Parnassians embraced art for art’s sake. They also rejected romanticism, which they viewed as unduly emotional and subjective, and embraced positivism, aiming for detached description and technical precision in their works. Privileging craftsmanship, they revived complex French verse forms such as the ballade, rondeau, and villanelle and often made use of “exotic” classical and Oriental subjects.
Led by French poet Leconte de Lisle, Parnassianism emerged as a literary movement in the 1860s, particularly with the publication of Le parnasse contemporain (The Contemporary Parnassus) (1866—76), a three-volume anthology of verse edited by Alphonse Lemerre and named for Mt. Parnassus, a sacred mountain in Greek mythology and home of the muses. Noted adherents included François Coppée; José Maria de Heredia; Catulle Mendès; Sully Prudhomme; Louis-Xavier de Ricard; and Théodore de Banville, whose Petit traité de poésie française (Little Treatise on French Poetry) (1872) was particularly influential. During the 1870s, the movement spread to England, where writers known as the English Parnassians, including Edmund Gosse, Andrew Lang, and Algernon Charles Swinburne, imitated the French school. Parnassianism also substantially influenced Aestheticism and French Symbolism.