A Parnassian is an archetype of the middle/upper middle class, even elites, who had an uneventful, sheltered childhood and received a respectable education who nonetheless believes they are entitled to have something eventful, relevant or important to add to the literary canon. Every generation in the book industry has a very large Parnassian clique who dominate discussion concerning what is, or is not relevant, yet are often remembered in hindsight as stifling or censoring the writers who come to embody their generation’s writing posthumously due to their conflict with the Parnassians.
The Parnassian poets, where the term Parnassianism derives, were a group of mid-to-late 19th Century bourgeois writers with connections to the French monarchy. They defined French poetry for a while by excluding the likes of Arthur Rimbaud, who famously agitated against their mundane, impassive values and came to epitomize the type of breakthrough poetry the Parnassians could never have imagined the public would embrace. Parnassians instead inspire great poetry via revolt against their established vision. The Parnassians were known for, “stories which the Madame could read whilst her maid was putting on her stockings, or which the Monsieur could devour when, hat on head and cane in hand, he waits till the Madame has buttoned the last button of her gloves.”*
Through the generations Parnassians have been known for their careerist value system when it comes to writing and maintain a loose semblance of power over the writing community through hot takes on social media, editorial or professorships and their presence in the industry’s establishments of public relations, marketing, publishing, reviews etc. Parnassians treat writing as if it were any other capitalist venture, and view their “product” as a brand. Much of their power over the writing community is obtained or retained by their outing of supposed inappropriate writers or topics, and loyalty to the industry’s categorization of writing by genres. The smug, exclusionary tactics they use are often exercised by means of ignoring the pleas of ambitious writers, who they see as attempting to replace their status in the writing community. To cover up their obvious capitalist, corporate-friendly establishmentarian value system, Parnassians often identify as bohemian, liberal-free thinkers.
*R.E. Prothero on Parnassian poet Theodore de Banville The Nineteenth Century (1891):
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