Music and the Georgian Novel, or the Divorce of Adam and Eve Cover Image
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Music and the Georgian Novel, or the Divorce of Adam and Eve
Music and the Georgian Novel, or the Divorce of Adam and Eve

Author(s): Pierre Dubois
Subject(s): Cultural history, Theoretical Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Philology, British Literature
Published by: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego
Keywords: imitation; expression; sensibility; language; Georgian novel; music
Summary/Abstract: Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne can be said to have inaugurated a new era in the way music was referred to and used in the 18th-century English novel. The growing importance of musical allusions in late Georgian novels paralleled the rise of the so-called “age of sensibility.” The demise of the classical theory of the “sister arts” in the course of the 18th century enabled music to become an autonomous artistic practice. It prompted the divorce between poetry and music and consequently encouraged the development of instrumental music. This had a direct bearing upon the new role accruing to music in the novel. It can be suggested that there is not only a difference, but a fundamental generic incompatibility or tension between music and the literary text as they try to share a common territory. Late Georgian writers felt that the “new sensibility” they strove to express in their texts could aptly be explored through references to music or musical practice. However, the very fact of mentioning music or of using musical devices in a prose text inevitably calls in question the nature of the literary medium itself. The role attributed to music inside the literary text drives the latter away from its usual shores, towards dangerous zones that threaten its normal balance. Even as music freed itself from the shackles of imitation and became more and more autonomous from the constraint of having as it were to “clothe” poetry, it acquired a greater role in the novel and, doing so, it highlighted the expressive shortcomings of language. By inviting music as a key component in their texts, novelists both paradoxically enriched them and endangered, or showed the limitations of their own art.

  • Page Range: 11-27
  • Page Count: 17
  • Publication Year: 2019
  • Language: English