Recognised as the author of the first philosophy of caricature, Charles Baudelaire formulated in his 1855 essay "De l'Essence du rire" an understanding of distortion and comic intent that would come to shape, Ainslie Armstrong McLee argues, not only Baudelaire's poetics but also the modernism his works helped unleash. Exploring the poet's early fascination with the affective power of caricature, with its unique mingling of visual distortion and verbal commentary, "Baudelaire's Argot Plastique" charts the movement in Baudelaire's poetry toward a language equally open to distortion, equally visual, equally able to elicit response. Distortion had become, by Baudelaire's day, widely accepted as a satiric technique in the graphic art of Goya and Daumier, both of whom the poet admired. McLees aims to demonstrate that caricature, graphically and culturally a vehicle of sharp wit and a social commentary, became in Baudelaire's works a means of exploring the human condition and art itself. Using its capacity for deflating commentary to subvert the poetic conventions of his age, transferring its range of subjects into a poetry that celebrated the underclass, Baudelaire focused the lens of caricature on the relation of subject, artist and viewer. In a series of self-portraits, both graphic and poetic, he expressed concerns that would be taken up by modern writers, from Edvard Munch to T.S.Eliot. Baudelaire's "Argot Plastique" reveals the importance of caricature as a model for Baudelaire's poetry. Tracing the convergence of Baudelaire's poetics and the rise of caricature in the nineteenth century, Ainslie Armstrong McLees charts the creation of a new genre - "poetic caricature" - through which Baudelaire not only freed himself from literary conventions but anticipated the themes and techniques of modernism.