Théophile Gautier stands out as a key figure in the context of critical-theoretical approaches to word–music relations in nineteenth-century France. This article seeks to re-examine his importance in the light of his musical collaboration with Hector Berlioz by reworking the Derridean notion of ‘iterability’, bringing it into contact with Gautier’s and Berlioz’s Nuits d’été songs and offering a fresh approach to the concept of ‘writing and difference’ that insists on the importance of the performative in song instead of privileging writing. With analyses of Les Nuits d’été, the figure of Mignon, the concept of the tombeau poétique, and of song-like qualities in poetry, this article tests the hypothesis that singing (in) poetry fundamentally reshapes our understanding of how language functions beyond its inscription on the page, discussing the underlying ‘unperformability’ inherent to song.

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