This book examines the problematic area of narrative structure under conditions of severe stress. Each of the four authors is shown to be concerned with the tension between narrative coherence as a desirable goal and an unfortunate check placed on the 'free' play of fantasy. This tension produces powerful disruptions of literary form in the lyric (Baudelaire, Mallarmé), prose poetry (Baudelaire, Rimbaud) and the novel (Flaubert) which are examined here. A final chapter draws out some of the historical implications of these readings in a discussion of Baudelaire's and Flaubert's trials for obscenity and of Marx's writings on France from 1848 to 1871. Professor Wing demonstrates that all these texts retain an unstable balance between earlier modes of thought, feeling and expression and the depersonal, fragmented modern text. He revises notions of modernity and invites us to reconsider traces of earlier forms of writing in more canonically modern texts.