Henri-Martin Barzun's 'Simultaneism' between the Abbaye de Créteil and Futurism: the Individual and the Crowd in Late-Symbolist Art

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This essay argues that Futurism’s concept of simultaneism derives in part from the influence of the French poet, critic and dramatist Henri-Martin Barzun (1881-1974). This influence began with F.T. Marinetti’s encounter with French late-Symbolist poetry and thought in the 1890s and was reinforced by his contacts with the intellectual community gathering at the Abbaye de Créteil in 1907-1908. Although the influence of Jules Romains' poetry and his theory of Unanimism has been widely discussed, little has been written about Barzun and Futurism. I propose in this essay that the ideas promulgated by Romains were, in certain areas, antithetical to Futurist thought, whereas Barzun’s concept of subjectivity in an evolving mass society, and indeed his practice of those ideas within drama and poetry, was more closely aligned to Marinetti's idea of selfhood. Having distinguished Barzun’s ideas from Romains, the essay also shows that the Futurist notion of simultaneism (simultaneità) differs both conceptually and practically from simultaneism as it was professed and practised by the French avant-garde, whether articulated as simultané (Robert Delaunay) or as simultanéité (Apollinaire). A close reading of Barzun’s Hymne des Forces (1912) is paralleled with the visual treatment of time and space in characteristic Futurist paintings by Delmarle and Severini. Finally, Barzun’s theory of polyphony and simultaneity is related to the Futurist assault on the boundary between art and life, especially its performance works that explore and rely on the tensions created by different voices speaking at the same time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-334
JournalInternational Yearbook of Futurism Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

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