Widely considered the first French-language photo narrative, the use of images in Bruges-la-Morte (1892) tends to occlude as much as it reveals. Drawing on archives and contemporary debates about the image, this article contends that photography structures the novel on a formal level by reinforcing its poetics of analogy, a project that connects Georges Rodenbach’s oeuvre to the larger symbolist movement from Baudelaire to Mallarmé. Rodenbach’s novel attempts to invent a tradition of symbolist prose, which provocatively locates a shared likeness in otherwise dissimilar literary and pictorial practices. The aura of Bruges is used to explore the nature and limits of analogy—a term shared by symbolism and photography—leading to a critique of forms of identification that conflate difference with similitude.

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