Music in Literature

Perspectives of Interdisciplinary Comparative Literature- Translated by Lindsay Davidson

by Andrzej Hejmej (Author)
©2015 Monographs 272 Pages
Open Access


This book captures links between music and literature in the light of recent proposals from theorists of intertextuality and comparative literature, and at the same time diagnoses the current state of comparative literature as a field of literary research. The issue of literary score, namely the phenomenon of musical intertexts which exist in literature, lies at the centre of the author’s interests. He examines strict intertextual correlations, in situations where a particular musical composition is implied in the literary record, or where it is precisely indicated, or co-exists with it as a component of the intermedial structure. Particular attention is given to realisations of sound poetry by Bernard Heidsieck, Miron Białoszewski, the creator of the Teatr Osobny (Separate Theatre), poetic works by Kornel Ujejski and Stanisław Barańczak, the creative work of playwright-composer Bogusław Schaeffer and Michel Butor’s hybrid text.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Content
  • Introduction
  • I. Text – Score
  • II. “Classical” Theory of Intertextuality
  • III. Consequences for Literary Studies
  • IV. New Take on Intertextuality
  • V. Intertextuality and Literary Score
  • Part One Towards Modern Comparative Literature
  • Stereotype(s) of Music in Literature
  • I. The Stereotype of Analogy (General Aesthetics)
  • II. Stereotype of (Non)Musicality of Literature
  • III. Musical Contexts and Intertexts
  • IV. Music in Literature (Attempts at Typology)
  • Literary Score. Subject Matter of Interdisciplinary Comparative Literature ...
  • I. Literature – Music (Methodological Remarks)
  • II. “Scores” Without Notes (Review of the Issues)
  • III. Literary Score (Musical Intertext)
  • IV. Research Perspectives
  • Interdisciplinarity and Comparative Studies
  • I. Introductory Remarks
  • II. Around Interdisciplinarity
  • III. Comparative Literature – Interdisciplinarity
  • IV. Interdisciplinary Comparative Literature
  • V. Cultural Comparative Literature
  • VI. Closing Remarks
  • Part Two Text – Sound Text – Verbal Score
  • Scores of Sound Poetry (Bernard Heidsieck’s Poèmes-partitions Cycle)
  • I. Score – Sound Text
  • II. Sound Poetry: Source, Tendencies, Defnitions
  • III. Bernard Heidsieck’s Experiments
  • 1. Visual text – sound text
  • 2. Intermedial text
  • 3. Sound Poetics – rhetorical fgures
  • IV. Repercussions
  • Miron Białoszewski’s (Sound) Text
  • I. Types of Textuality (Theses)
  • II. Noises – Clusters – Sounds (Aesthetics of Orality)
  • III. Verbal Scores
  • IV. From Score To “Knitting ...” (Imiesłów)
  • V. Parallels
  • Around Schaeffer’s Scores
  • I. “Interdisciplinary Creator”
  • II. Musical Experiments and Instrumental Theatre
  • III. Theatrical/Stage/Dramaturgical Scores (Próby)
  • IV. Consequences
  • Part Three The Limits of Interpretation: Implied Score
  • The Effect (Defect) of Translation of Chopin (Kornel Ujejski’s Zakochana) ....
  • I. Introductory Remarks
  • II. Kornel Ujejski and Music
  • III. Chopin – Leonia Wild – Ujejski
  • IV. Zakochana – Mazurka in A minor, Op. 7 No. 2
  • V. Conclusions
  • The Peripheral Signifcance of Music (Stanisław Barańczak’s Aria: Awaria) ...
  • I. Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Literary Repercussions
  • II. Intertextual Parallels
  • Da Ponte – Barańczak (Phonetic-Compositional Parallels)
  • Mozart – Barańczak (Prosodic-Semantic Parallels)
  • III. Semantic Effects of Stylisation
  • IV. Consequences
  • Michel Butor’s Text-score (Dialogue avec 33 variations de Ludwig van Beethoven sur une valse de Diabelli)
  • I. “Generalised Intertextuality”
  • II. Butor’s Musical Discourse
  • III. Score (Literary)
  • IV. Butor’s Dialogue with Beethoven
  • V. Other Butor
  • Bibliography
  • I. Artistic Context
  • II. Musical-Literary Research Contexts
  • III. Literary Research Contexts (Comparative Literature, Literary Theory, Criticism)
  • Bibliographic Notes
  • Index
  • Subject index
  • Summary
  • Series index

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The problem of “music in literature”, known for a long time to literary theorists as a matter of aesthetics, has for a few decades attracted the attention of comparatists particularly interested in interdisciplinary research1. Despite this established interest, today it is impossible to bring clarity to the phenomena connected to music in literature – both due to the diversity of these phenomena occurring in different cultural realities, but also, and above all else, because of their different understandings. Divergent, disproportionate interpretations cause, in effect, the appearance that literary theorists’ proposals are exceptionally inconsistent. It is therefore necessary here to answer the most general questions possible, namely, what is meant by the phrase “music in literature”? This question is all the more justified when issues so varied in their essence appear. These are questions related to non-literary and musical influences, certain types of language formation, forms of thematising music, and interpretations of musical structures in literature or the existence of musical-literary intermedial constructs.

To immediately clarify the point of view adopted regarding the theoretical category “music in literature2, I take the view given by Steven Paul Scher (as have, likewise, most of today’s comparatists and literary theorists from Western Europe3). It defines a typology within musical and literary studies from one of the problem fields, which consists of three interdependent spheres of phenomena. ← 7 | 8 → The first is combined with the sonic form of a literary text (in Scher’s terms the “word music”), the second – with the widely understood constructionism of music in literature (“musical structures and techniques”), and the third – with all forms of literary systematising of music (“verbal music”). Thus, the same question of music in literature gains in the problematic sense of defined contours, and ceases to function in literary studies as an imprecise phenomenon commonly associated with intuitive or impressionist-metaphorical images4. The consequences of this are clear: resolution of the relations between specific literary texts and musical compositions, a musical-literary dependency, which becomes possible not only according to traditional categories such as inspiration, influence or analogies, but also in terms of intertextual studies – transposition, interference and coexistence.

Taking into account the perspective of interdisciplinary comparative studies and intertextual research, the moment of explaining various musical links, especially in the emerging modern literature, opens new possibilities of interpretation. Undoubtedly one of the most tantalising research tropes turns out to be confrontation of a literary text with the score (a musical work), which, in effect, will lead us to talk about the phenomenon of a literary score. Of course, the use of this term does not imply or attempt to introduce radical changes in the currently established terminology. Not does it mean that there will be a resignation from any of the problems of “music in literature”. All throughout, the phenomena indicated by Steven P. Scher are constantly in the field vision. Grounds for deciding a research trope are purely pragmatic: as to interpret various literary texts in which the concept of a score plays an important role, it is perhaps easiest to show the evident realisation of “music in literature” (including intermedial constructs), as well as a realisation supported solely by conventionality and the author’s rhetorical play with the interpreter.

I. Text – Score

The idea of “score”, taken from the musicological dictionary, often appears in literary criticism discourse today despite the fact that, at first glance, it is difficult to identify with literature alone. In literary criticism, the word “score” is defined – on one side – as literary text. This definition is about a metaphor referring to a text and textuality placing it in the order of such concepts as “fabric”, “network”, “web” and similar. On the other hand, many specific literary realisations indicate their relationship with musical compositions or their musical nature in general. ← 8 | 9 → The first case concerns purely theoretical proposals created by thinkers such as R. Barthes, P. Ricoeur, M. Butor.5 The question of the score sensu largo becomes a matter of interest in this book to the extent that it serves as an initial review of the issues and is useful to the arguments when analysing the chosen texts. I am interested in the second case, namely, the problem of intertextual relationships in literature occurring between a given literary text and a particular piece of music. In this way, there will be interpretative situations where the term “score” retains its proper musicological meaning in literary theory.

Very different problems appear when we try to see the results of the adoption of such a research perspective that is conditioned less through proposals (which within the field of traditionally defined aesthetics would be called studies in correspondence of arts) than by theories of intertextuality and intertextual models of interpretation in the field of reflection. The use of the term “score” in various interpretative contexts involves not only extraliterary and intersemiotic genological references and the existence of literary and musical palimpsest constructs6 (which represent a peripheral manifestation that gives way to Gérard Genette’s formula of “literature in the second degree”), but it also provokes many other views. Some of them being the graphic-phonic or sound form of a given record (as in the case of texts with a connection to the avant-garde or neoavant-garde trends of the last century), the theoretical proposals defined by the author’s suggestions or comments, and the musical invention of the interpreter and their hypothetical musical interpretations. Undoubtedly today (at a time when the interest of literary critics in comparative literature, particularly musical-literary, ← 9 | 10 → is growing7) extensive commentary – because of the literary use of the term “score” – is equally tempting and attractive in the rhetorical sense, and in most cases, also raises certain suspicions, reasonable objections or, at best, a research scepticism8.

The consent found among literary scholars to sanction the existing state of affairs – to speak of the literary text as a “score” (thus to test the usefulness of the musicological description in literary studies) – is to some extent a result of authors’ intervention. There is no need to convince us that the contemporary artist that has the goal of strengthening (or legitimising) his justification of his views would willingly use the effect, as Friedrich Nietzsche would say, of the “tremendous paradox”9. Michel Butor, for example, referring to the tradition initiated in modern literature by Mallarmé and exposing the fact of a break with the conventions of the novel, does not hesitate at the turn of the XXI century to make the claim that: “The idea of text as a score leads to a new conception of literature”10 (the writer and theoretician of intertextuality indeed has some convincing arguments for such an original thesis). It is not difficult to predict the further consequences of this: Butor’s interpreters take his “dictionary” and comment on the author’s suggestions in the context of specific annotations (e.g. 6 810 000 litres d’eau ← 10 | 11 → par seconde and Réseau aérien11), and even try to formulate a general theory of text12 in the taken optic. Examples of such behaviour in the case of contemporary literature are without doubt more numerous: reference of a written text to a musical score – this time with completely different reasons to those of the French writer – become a typical feature of the thinking of the sonorant poets (such as Henri Chopin, Bernard Heidsieck and Michèle Métail) about a contemporary variant of oral literature: sound poetry. This fact, of course, provokes interpreters into a certain type of generalised opinions and not just in moments of interpreting sound text with such suggestive titles such as Bernard Heidsieck’s Poèmes-partitions.

By indicating two characteristic behaviours of literary criticism provoked by Butor’s theoretical concepts and the sonorant poets, bearing in mind the conditions of interpretation of some of Miron Białoszewski’s writings (in particular Imiesłów [Participle], a work from the Teatr Osobny13), I am not generalising or creating any interpretative rules; even more so, I am not overestimating the author’s decisions. After all, the matter looks completely different in the situation, for example, of Bogusław Schaeffer, who takes a radically different position when compared with Michel Butor and the creators of sound poetry. It is well known that as a dramatist he shunned calling his own texts “theatrical scores”14 (no doubt in this matter the voice of the composer, music theorist, creator of graphic music scores overwhelms the voice of the dramatist) and that he criticises this interpretative practice. But it is also well known that this fact does not seem to trouble many commentators15, who name Schaeffer’s writings as a “form of musical score”, “theatrical score”, “stage score”, “dramaturgical score” …

In such circumstances, I take into account the tension between intentio auctoris, intentio operis and intentio lectoris16 and proceed to the initial hypothesis; ← 11 | 12 → interpretive ideas associated with “scoressensu largo are usually an attempt to capture specificity of a given text and / or talk about textuality (inter alia by virtue of graphic, phonic or sound conditions, because of the nature of the avant-garde record, on account of postmodern bricolage). One of the interpretative ideas is spreading through the circles of contemporary literary criticism discourse with full approval of the authors (in the case of Butor); others – as revealed by even the most cursory insight into the reception of Schaeffer’s dramas – depart from the authors’ comments, become the result (if we could use such a phrase) of “private”, idiosyncratic interpretative practices. Undoubtedly it is impossible to resign from the context of various situations of literary criticism where the term “score” appears in the metaphorical, individually defined sense at the moment of here accomplishing certain theoretical judgments. However, in the perspective of intertextuality and other research possibilities, which are connected to score sensu stricto, there exists the least controversial use of the musicological term in literary studies. This is what I would like to pay special attention in the following chapters of the book.

Although this may be an obvious matter, the problem has been rarely noticed by our literary critics (also those involved with issues of intertextuality and intertextual phenomena). This problem being that a condition – or one of the conditions – of interpreting certain texts proves to be a score of a particular musical work. Interpretation of a text such as Aria: Awaria17 [Aria: Failure/ Emergency] from the volume Chirurgiczna precyzja [Surgical Precision] by Stanisław Barańczak seems to be impossible without reaching for the score of Don Giovanni, without listening to and having familiarity with Mozart’s opera, particularly Donna Elvira’s aria, “Ah chi mi dice mai” (it is similar with interpreting Barańczak’s Podróż zimowa [Winter Journey]. Likewise, it cannot take place without Schubert’s Winterreise). Michel Butor’s reader Dialogue avec 33 variations de Ludwig van Beethoven sur une valse de Diabelli turns out to be somewhat hermetic without taking account of the structure of Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120, and without drawing conclusions from the fact that the writer started his work with Beethoven’s score. Reading the work: Tłumaczenia Szopena [Translations of Chopin], which is called Zakochana (Dzieło 7. Mazurek 2.)18 [In Love (Work 7. Mazurka 2.)], in isolation from the Mazurka in A minor from Op. 7 happens today and is dangerous (axiological considerations decide this first and foremost). Perhaps it may even be impossible because without its context the “usefulness” of ← 12 | 13 → Chopin’s compositions are obscured, as well as its particular meaning in a dialogue led by Kornel Ujejski with the Chopin interpreter – Leonia Wild. And so, the palimpsest character of the named literary texts determines the mode of reading, imposes an intertextual (intermedial) and also an intertextual model of interpretation. Choice of the intertextual perspective in the case of studying this kind of musical reference in literature may seem obvious, but nevertheless it involves that which should immediately be emphasised, along with its many dangers: the need for intrusion into the field of various intertextual phenomena and of the necessary revision of the theory of intertextuality.

II. “Classical” Theory of Intertextuality

The basic complications connected to the theories of intertextuality and even the usage of the term “intertextuality” are commonly known today19. To be as simple as possible, we may say that intertextuality is a category of thinking that is as much post-structuralist (J. Kristeva, R. Barthes), including deconstructive (J. Derrida) or deconstructionist (H. Bloom), as it is late structuralist (L. Jenny, G. Genette, M. Riffaterre, L. Dällenbach, R. Debray-Genette). Extremely individual ideas and definitions mean that we are unable in any way to reconcile the various research perspectives, which may be based on differing assumptions, into a single proposal. Some theorists have indeed consciously complicated our image of the matter, and even if we only mention Gérard Genette’s deliberately unstable discourse, then his renaming of “intertextuality” to “architextuality” in Introduction à l’architexte (Paris: Seuil, 1979) and later to “transtextuality” in Palimpsestes. La littérature au second degré (Paris: Éd. du Seuil, 1982), and “paratextuality” (Introduction à l’architexte) to “hypertextuality” (Palimpsestes)20, not to mention eccentric ← 13 | 14 → comments of the nature: “At the time of writing (13 October 1981) I am inclined to recognize five types of transtextual relationships”21.

As can be seen from just the example of modelling Genette’s theories – from Introduction à l’architexte (1979), through Palimpsestes (1982), past Seuils (1987) [translated as Paratexts. Thresholds of Interpretation, 1997] and Figures IV (1999) – reconciling the ideas of intertextuality is today impossible and to a certain extent pointless. However, even in such circumstances, it is worth zooming in – in the most perfunctory way – on some facts. Julia Kristeva initiated the issues of intertextual studies, which from the end of the 1960s became the special domain of French language scholars (focused around the Paris based journal “Tel Quel”). It was exactly her commenting on Mikhail Bakhtin’s cultural theory (including Bakhtin’s concepts of dialogism and polyphony22) that brought the term “intertextuality” into circulation in an article written in 1966 and published a year later in the April edition of Critique – “Bakhtine, le mot, le dialogue et le roman”23. Kristeva’s first proposal sounds thus: “any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another. The notion of intertextuality replaces that of intersubjectivity [...]”24. It should be emphasised that the fragment in which she resigns from Bakhtin’s25 “intersubjectivity” in favour of “intertextuality”, has the form of a sketch and it should not be understood in the context of many ← 14 | 15 → other commentaries spread in Sèméiotikè: recherches pour une sémanalyse (in particular contained in the text: “Pour une sémiologie des paragrammes” from 1967)26. Intertextuality, according to the literary researcher, is an understanding of poetic words/language as “at least double”27; in other words, an understanding of text as “productivity”28. Kristeva’s assumptions otherwise gain additional articulation in La révolution du langage poétique. L’avant-garde à la fin du XIXe siècle: Lautréamont et Mallarmé (Paris: Éd. du Seuil, 1974), where intertextuality is defined in the context of Freud’s psychoanalysis in the category of transposition – “transposition of one (or several) sign system(s) into another”29 – or generally speaking as a network of inter-system relationships.

Today one may risk the assertion that all other theories of intertextuality – not just those characterised by representatives of the “Tel Quel” group and formulated from a post-structuralist position – are situated to some degree in Kristeva’s concept. Roland Barthes is directly interested in her proposals, willingly defining intertextuality in a periphrastic manner as something “already read” – “déjà lu30. He annexes the ideas and terminology of the French researcher of Bulgarian origin when drafting the Encyclopædia Universalis entry about “Theory of text” [“Texte (théorie du)”] (and assumes theoretical categories such as productivity and sensoproductivity, phenotext and genotext among others). Remaining with the assertion that text is the result of the existence of other texts, “Every text is intertext”. By understanding that intertext is a “general field of anonymous ← 15 | 16 → formulae”31, the author of La mort de l’Auteur”32 radicalises the theory of the participant of his seminars. (Inter)text is conceived in terms of dissemination33 and is defined, whether in S/Z, or in Le plaisir du texte, or in Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes, in broadly sociocultural terms34. The problem of intertextuality in this case gains a theoretical interpretation that in later times interests genetic critics and becomes a proposal willingly invoked by theorists of internet hypertext.

Michael Riffaterre explains the issue of “intertext” considered in close relation with “intertextuality” from the perspective of Peircean semiotics, amongst others, quite differently to Barthes. The literary critic takes a consistently pragmatic position: “Intertext”, as he wrote in the article L’intertexte inconnu, “is the collection of texts which may refer to that which you have before your eyes, the collection of texts which appear in your memory whilst reading a given fragment”35. Here, intertextuality turns out to have been an effect of a certain kind of reading: intertextual reading, which in Riffaterre’s opinion becomes the opposite of linear reading36. Pragmatic-hermeneutical assumptions cause that the Riffaterrean approach to the intertextual issues and categories (intertext, textuality, intertextuality)37 are different at first glance from the theoretical and speculative approach of Barthes. Well, a supporter of intertextual semiotics, is interested in reading involving intuitive cultural practice; a kind of reading that leads to certain ← 16 | 17 → findings and decisions of interpretation. The characteristic thing about this is that in distancing himself from a speculative interpretation of intertextuality, Riffaterre also omits the perspective of what may be said to be “strong” intertextuality linked to the author’s intentions. “Obligatory intertextuality”38 appears at the centre of his interests (defined in opposition to “aleatory intertextuality”), imposed and conditioned by the culture, competence and reading presuppositions of the recipient. This is also why the model form of intertextual reading is the concept of reading based on the schema of the “semiotic triangle” – that is, a way of explaining the text-intertext relationship in the light of a proposed “intermediate” text: the interpretant.39

The limitation of the reflection to only the direct relationship of text-to-intertext, and the choice to not take into consideration the interpretant in Michael Riffaterre’s case means a resignation from intertextual study. In turn, this means that one is to be content with the traditional criticism of the sources40. Meanwhile, for Gérard Genette, who postulated a purely formal examination of the literary relationships, this “direct relationship” becomes adequate or even an iron argument for “textual transcendence”41. In fact, intertextuality according to one of the Genette definitions, which he described in Palimpsests as “restrictive” (strict) is “a relationship of copresence between two texts or among several texts”42 and “the actual presence of one text within another”43. As is well known, in the Palimpsests this category is one of five categories within the broadly defined “transtextuality”. This five-part typology – best known today to Polish literary critics from the French theoretical typologies of literature – include in turn: intertextuality (literary allusion, quotation, plagiarism), ← 17 | 18 → paratextuality (title, subtitle, introduction, motto, afterwords, notes, etc.), metatextuality (commentary, and in particular discursive mention in another text), hypertextuality (parody, travesty, pastiche) and architextuality (general genological reference in connection to the connotations of titles such as Poetry or Novel). Genette places the question of hypertextuality at the centre of his attention (hypertext that remains in a relation to earlier text is called hypotext)44; in other words, he is interested in the literary mechanism of “grafting” secondary texts, which theorists include in the categories of bricolage.

III. Consequences for Literary Studies

Today, recalling “classical” interpretations of the issues of intertextuality is absolutely enough to conclude that the term proposed by Julia Kristeva – “intertextualité” – which has been functioning for four decades in literary critics’ dictionaries (and now also those beyond), potentially makes two basic uses possible. This is, among other things, due to having the same lexical forms where the prefix ‘inter-’ means a relationship of reciprocity, that is, the mediatisation (therefore, the accent will be placed on various types of formal study). The suffix ‘-te’ means, in turn, quality and “a certain degree of abstraction”45 (this aspect will be particularly exposed in concepts where the authors challenge the formal definition). Therefore it may be possible to indicate, despite the difficulties shown with organising the theory of intertextuality, two tight reflections which bring together various proposals. One line of reflection governs the rules of polysemy and decidability, and the second: the rules of productivity, sensoproductivity, dissemination46; in the case of the first we pass through intertextual interpretation to determine the specifics of a given text (or generally, work of art), and in the case of the second – through the reading practice of emancipating signifiants – to the theory of text (this is why Kristeva’s formula “network of connections”47 refers ← 18 | 19 → to a literary work, or Barthes mentions the “theory of text”). In one situation, the main accent falls on the syllables inter- and the narrowly understood text mediatisation (this relation text, composed of other text/texts, could also be, as Michael Riffaterre argues, an effect of purely reading operations); the other accent falls on the part of textuality (in the extreme consequence of the problem of pantextuality, which is most adequately captured in the Derridian phrase “texte général48 and was once widely commented upon in the literary debates with the formula “Il n’y a pas de hors-texte49). It should be emphasised that today the various ways of placing the issues of intertextuality within specific strands of reflection is not merely the simple question of: a choice of one of them, a choice between a pragmatic and an analytical-interpretative viewpoint, or a theoretical, speculative viewpoint that would as much as situate them in a defined area of the influence of the theory50.

To summarise our previous observations, intertextuality was never, as some literary critics sometimes say, a “universal” category in literary criticism during the last decades (another thing is that it effectively aroused hopes combined with interpretative practices, and researchers’ excessive optimism in a variety of different environments). Universality – and as a result: battles about “strong” theories – was not brought into the equation for the simple reason that for Julia Kristeva the term intertextuality meant something different at the end of the 1960s. This avoidance of bringing in universality occurred from the point of drawing consequences out of Bakhtinian theories and de Saussure’s anagrams, to what it meant for those who tried to define postmodernist literature and establish the union of ideas of postmodernism (for example M. Pfister51) in the 1980s. Still it means something else for those who are today advocates of genetic criticism and are interested in studying the production of text; they view the phenomenon ← 19 | 20 → of literature as proposed by Jean Bellemin-Noël as “avant-texte52 in view of his own theory of intertextuality53 (for example R. Debray-Genette54). Suffice to say in the present case of today’s comparatists alone the situation turns out to be ambiguous. After all, on the one hand, as is commonly believed, “intertextuality is to comparatists what the steppe is to the Cossack”55, and on the other, it is a kind of trump card that is the subject of an undecidable dispute. For the researcher occupied with interdisciplinary comparatism, intertextuality first and foremost represents the possibility of analysing phenomena between several art forms that can be intermedial; this researcher also has the possibility of undertaking studies of an interdisciplinary nature. The researcher dealing with the so-called cultural comparatism, however, has the possibility of breaking with traditional research of the type known as “influenceology” (in practice, this allows us to remove the word “influence” from the comparatist dictionary and speak about cultural reality through the perspective of “imagology”, or post-colonial studies, amongst others). ← 20 | 21 →

The category of intertextuality, to repeat once more, has not become a “universal” category in the discourse of the humanities, but it very quickly gained the status of a term in circulation. This was mainly determined by two factors. Firstly, in the 1970s, in a relatively short period of time, there was an emergence of a variety of interpretations and attempted applications of intertextuality by literary critics (Kristeva, Barthes, Jenny, Culler, Genette, Riffaterre, Compagnon). Secondly, as a further consequence of this circulation of the term intertextuality, there has been a great interest in the theories of intertextuality during the next two decades56. The existence – in the 1970s and 1980s – of a particular trend in intertextual studies57 resulted in the modification and tailoring of the “classical” theory to individual research needs. These “classical” theories, as may be said in the most far-reaching, albeit dangerous, generalisation are associated in three ways: firstly, with writing (hence such terms as “bricolage”, “work of transformation ← 21 | 22 → and assimilation”58, using “scissors and glue”59); secondly, with the properties of the text itself (either a specific text, more broadly characteristic of modern and postmodern literature, or text in general); thirdly, with the effects of intertextual reading (“the proper mechanism of literary reading”60), situating the problem of intertextuality in the perspective of awareness and / or unawareness, intentionality and / or unintentionality. An accurate assessment of the situation then, I think, would be formed by Tzvetan Todorov’s laconic comment from a completely different occasion, “intertextuality is never absent”61.

The avalanche of literary criticism proposals – both in theory and in interpretative practice62 – now belongs, without a doubt, to the past. The category of intertextuality, however, remains present in the thinking of literary critics. It can almost be said that it serves various re-evaluations of previous reading projects, individual research methods, and methodological orientations. The current interest in intertextual reflection is due, on the one hand, to the fact of re-evaluation of existing research paradigms (the intertextual trend, as some wish to say, is one of the essential trends – apart from linguistic, ethical, narrative – in literary studies of the last decade). On the other hand, however this interest is due to the calibration of new research perspectives including: interdisciplinary studies, studies under the banners of genetic criticism63, feminist studies and postcolonial studies64, studies in the field of cultural comparative literature, and studies related ← 22 | 23 → to hypertext65 and “e-literature”. In conclusion, the erstwhile literary criticism projects of “intertextual poetics” (Jenny, Riffaterre, Genette) complement new projects today, to some extent supplementary, plotted in a broad cultural context. Their common feature, despite their distinct profiles, is a way of thinking and awareness for today’s literary critics: “intertextual study”, as Ryszard Nycz notes, “is the third great wave of modern poetological reflection”66 (after the theory of imitation and emulation, and post-romantic theory of influence) and leads us to challenge the essentialist poetics.

IV. New Take on Intertextuality

Various studies under the label of intertextual research were initially concerned, in the 1970s, with uniform phenomena, which meant that they focused only on philological-literary questions (this is a fundamental trait of “classical” theory of intertextuality). However, the 1980s brought noticeable changes; within the humanities the scope of the phenomena connected with intertextuality began to broaden and, consequently, gradually transform the whole issue. Gérard Genette himself gave an example of such an action in Palimpsests, where he indicated – despite dealing there with literary intertexual references – the problem of the existence of “hyperesthetic practices”67. In regards to cases of intertextual relations in film, Genette devised a name for them (in a manner similar to the terminology proposed earlier): “hyperfilmicity68. Projects of this kind of research, oriented to hyperaesthetic practice, are undoubtedly in the field of interest of literary critics, since in the article “Romances sans paroles”69 (1987) existing theories of intertextuality are supplemented with another typology. This time, however, it is atypical because it relates entirely to music phenomena. Within Genette’s typology of intertextual musical relations there are considered to be three sorts; namely, compositions “with ← 23 | 24 → words” (“avec paroles”), compositions “à propos of words” (“à propos de paroles”) and compositions “with words without words” (“avec paroles sans paroles”)70. The first case is actual co-existence: the presence of words with which we find ourselves in the situation of every genre of vocal music. The second case is a specific allusion (reference in absentia) that turns out to be, for example, characteristic of some of Liszt’s symphonic poems. The third is cultural suggestion (according to Genette’s laconic conclusion: absence due to non-existence), thanks to which a musical composition gains specific cultural connotations, such as Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte for example.

By assessing the importance of Genette’s earlier mentioned proposals from today’s perspective, it can be clearly seen that they open new research possibilities. The implications of this are far-reaching; specifically, interest in theories of intertextuality and practical intertextual research goes beyond just characterising the 1970s and 1980s71 for primarily literary critics. This interest now appears among other representatives of humanistic research: theatrologists, filmologists, art historians and musicologists72. In other words, the category of intertextuality at the turn of the twenty-first century no longer served only literary critics in studying literature, but also became a category useful in the study of music, painting, film and new media. This extended, new understanding of intertextuality gains an interesting theoretical interpretation among others from Marc Eigeldinger who, in Mythologie et intertextualité (1987), demands to “not limit the concepts of intertextuality only to literature, but to extend them to various fields of culture”73. But the most important comment for us is ← 24 | 25 → the one that allows us to see that intertextuality also applies to the problem of the appearance of “another language [un autre langage] within the literary language74. Undoubtedly in this case this is about widely understood cultural references (including references of an intersystemical, intermedial character), after all, this “other language” for Eigeldinger is fine arts, music, the Bible, mythology, and finally, philosophy75.

In Eigeldinger’s project, we are free to believe that studies under the banner of intertextual research are associated with the issue of heterogeneous intermedial cultural phenomena. Heinrich E. Plett takes a similar view on the question, and he, at the time of drafting the typology of intermedial relations, treated intermediality as a manifestation of intertextuality. Keeping in mind the verbal-visual-acoustic transformation, this includes six cases of these transformations, referred to generally as the “medial substitution”; namely, 1) change of the language paradigm for the visual: Shakespeare’s plays for their illustrations by Henry Fuseli, 2) language for acoustic: Goethe’s Faust – Liszt’s Eine Faust Symphonie in drei Charakterbildern (nach Goethe), 3) visual for language: 77 pictures by René Magritte – Alain Robbe-Grillet’s novel La belle captive, 4) visual for acoustic: Victor Hartmann’s paintings – Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky, 5) acoustic for language: Beethoven’s Sonata in A major, Op. 47 (“Kreutzer”) – Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata, and finally, 6) acoustic for visual: Maurice Ravel’s Bolero – Maurice Béjart’s ballet Bolero.76 Understanding intertextuality in such situations has a direct relationship ← 25 | 26 → with intermediality77, and also with inter-semiotics78, and ultimately provokes interpretation of an interdisciplinary character.

In connection with the expansion of the field of intertextual research it should still be said that in recent times the theories connected with phenomena of intertextuality are becoming more “maximalist” interpretations, so to say. Good examples of this, among others, are Graham Allen’s, Intertextuality (London: Routledge, 2000) and Mary Orr’s Intertextuality: Debates and Contexts (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003). In both studies there is a place both for many problem contexts (from interdiscursivity contexts, interdisciplinarity, through contexts of Bloomian interpretation of “influence”79, rhetoric, to contexts associated with hypertext and literature in cyberspace), as well as for a number of different concepts (from Kristeva, Barthes, Riffaterre, Genette, through Bloom, and Ricoeur). In Polish literary criticism, Ryszard Nycz recently offered a broad definition of intertextuality – “modern theory of intertextuality80, according to which intertextual study should include coverage ← 26 | 27 → “apart from the traditional idea of literature, also include non-literary discourses of cultural reality”81. This will include, in the opinion of literary critics, three main research perspectives: firstly, system research, like Riffaterre or Genette, devoted to literature (general – art) and intersemiotic references; secondly, various studies concerning the sphere of relations between artists and/or consumers of culture – generally speaking, this would be a study of any interactions that govern the social discourses (Bloom, Said, Showalter)82; thirdly, the study of the properties of text and textuality (Barthes, Derrida).

V. Intertextuality and Literary Score


ISBN (Hardcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2015 (January)
Stereotypen Intermedialität Intertextualität Interdisziplinarität
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 272 pp., num. fig., 1 table, 1 graph

Biographical notes

Andrzej Hejmej (Author)

Andrzej Hejmej is Professor at the Faculty of Polish Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow (Poland). His recent publications include a volume on comparative literature and cultural studies as well as numerous papers on comparative literature, literary theory and modern Polish literature.


Title: Music in Literature