Apollinaire when describing his writing principles and techniques says that he emphasizes the "sincerity of the emotion" and "the spontaneity of the expression":

"I am a firm believer in excluding the intervention of intelligence, i.e. philosophy and logic, in the manifestations of art. The art must have for foundation the sincerity of the emotion and the spontaneity of the expression: the one and the other are in direct relation with the life which they try to magnify aesthetically."

This statement somehow implies that Apollinaire wrote in one single stretch (to preserve the spontaneity).

Didn't Apollinaire correct and edited his manuscripts? Or otherwise, it is not spontaneity, but an impression of spontaneity.

The quote in original French:

"Je suis partisan acharné d’exclure l’intervention de l’intelligence, c’est-à-dire de la philosophie et de la logique dans les manifestations de l’art. L’art doit avoir pour fondement la sincérité de l’émotion et la spontanéité de l’expression : l’une et l’autre sont en relation directe avec la vie qu’elles s’efforcent de magnifier esthétiquement." (entretien avec Perez-Jorba dans La Publicidad)

Response to comments:

I understand the idea of "spontaneity" as meaning "the quality of being natural rather than planned in advance" (Cambridge), because this value of spontaneity is a value in the romantic tradition, to which Apollinaire belongs or is an heir of. See this passage from (Esterhammer, 2011):

Many Romantic poems highlight the immediacy of emotional response, and most Romantic poets at one time or another lay claim to the power of extemporaneous composition. According to the Romantic ideal, the poetic genius creates poetry naturally, without long labor or study. Figures and scenes of spontaneous composition populate the Romantic canon; they can be found in Blake’s “Introduction” to Songs of Innocence, in Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” and at the outset of Wordsworth’s Prelude. The immediacy of inspiration is central to Shelley’s Defence of Poetry, while Keats writes in his letters of poetry coming as naturally as the leaves to a tree.


Esterhammer, A. (2011). Spontaneity, Immediacy, and Improvisation in Romantic Poetry. A Companion to Romantic Poetry, 321-36.

  • @GarethRees Because in the context, it is given with the word "sincerity", which is more in line with "sans réflexion ni délai" than with "de soi-même, de façon autonome"
    – Starckman
    May 8, 2023 at 14:04
  • And also because when Apollinaire removed the punctuation, there is this effect of "sans réflexion ni délai"
    – Starckman
    May 8, 2023 at 14:05
  • @GarethRees Do you concede there is an obvious ambiguity in the use of the terms?
    – Starckman
    May 8, 2023 at 14:19
  • @GarethRees Is it mistaken? We just showed that they are multiple interpretations, not that either of them is correct. And no, all language is not ambiguous, many writers write extremely clearly
    – Starckman
    May 8, 2023 at 14:32

1 Answer 1


The passage from Apollinaire quoted in the question includes this maxim:

L’art doit avoir pour fondement la sincérité de l’émotion et la spontanéité de l’expression

The art must have for foundation the sincerity of the emotion and the spontaneity of the expression

The question interprets “spontané” as meaning “sans réflexion ni délai” (without reflection or delay; unpremeditated) and concludes that if Apollinaire had respected his own maxim then he would not have been able to edit his manuscripts, as editing would spoil the spontaneity in this sense. This is a difficult conclusion, hence this question.

But “spontané” has another meaning, “de soi-même, de façon autonome” (by oneself; independent; autonomous) and under this interpretation there is no difficulty. My own opinion is that this interpretation makes more sense, because an emotion is “sincere” if it is the artist’s own emotion, so for parallelism an expression would be “spontaneous” if it were the artist’s own expression.

What I think Apollinaire means is that an artist’s natural expression or style, not unduly constrained by artistic convention or tradition, is “en relation directe avec la vie” (directly related to life, the aesthetic magnification of which is the artist’s goal).

  • Upvoted. What do you mean by "independently or autonomously generated"?
    – Starckman
    May 8, 2023 at 14:52
  • "because an emotion is “sincere” if it is the artist’s own emotion" an emotion is sincere also if it didn't went through cognitive processing, in order to calculate one own's interest (the other meaning of "spontanéité")
    – Starckman
    May 9, 2023 at 5:43
  • @PeterShor A researcher (Laurence Campa) says that Apollinaire worked intensely on his manuscripts in order to give them an appearance of naturalness, while he pretended being frivolous in his writing technique.
    – Starckman
    May 11, 2023 at 4:31
  • "Si l'on en croit ses propres déclarations, on pourrait penser qu'il n'est jamais à sa table de travail, et qu'il compose en flânant, en marchant, en chantant, au café … Mais quand on regarde ses brouillons, quand on regarde ses manuscrits, on voit bien qu'en fait, il travaillait énormément. Mais il travaillait justement pour arriver à cette allure naturelle." (around 3rd minute, youtube.com/watch?v=C0iGlbn0m_4)
    – Starckman
    May 11, 2023 at 4:32
  • And also the interpretation I make of Apollinaire's quote is based on the knowledge of an overall theme in the romanticism tradition (from 19th European Romanticism, through French surrealism to the American Beat Generation) which is the emphasis on (the apperance of) a natural flow of expression, without deemed-unnatural editing, standing as a retranscription of the genius impulses of the artist.
    – Starckman
    May 11, 2023 at 4:52

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