A movement in French literature, at the height of its importance between the years 1870 and 1886. Revolting against realism and influenced by the English PreRaphaelites and by the music of Wagner, it sought to achieve in poetry the effects of music, making use of clustered images and metaphors suggesting or symbolizing the basic idea or emotion of each poem. Forerunners of symbolism were Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Verlaine, all of whom had an important influence on the movement; its leader and theorist was Stéphane Mallarme.
Other members of the symbolist school were Gustave Kahn, Henri de Regnier, Jules Lafourge, Tristan Corbiere, Francis Jammes, Stuart Merrill, Francis Viele-Griffin, Rene Ghil, Jean Moreas, Albert Samain, Georges Rodenbach, Maurice Maeterlinck, Marcel Schwob. Comte Robert de Montesquiou was also associated with the movement, and Lautreamont and Villiers de L'Isle Adam are sometimes classed as symbolists. George Moore, Arthur Symons, and W. B. Yeats were strongly influenced by symbolism in their early careers, and T. S. Eliot and James Joyce are considered to have made adaptations of the symbolist technique in the development of their own individual styles. The movement also had an important influence on the development of Imagism, Objectivism, and Surrealism.