Musicality of a Literary Work

by Andrzej Hejmej (Author)
Monographs 244 Pages
Open Access

Table Of Content


General Editor: Wojciech H. Kalaga

Volume 57


The possibility to represent music in literature is very limited – representation as an intersemiotic form of mimesis. This problem is extremely complex and quite unusual among historically sanctioned cases of music-literary relations, while it remains one of the most marginal in literature and undoubtedly the least developed to date. Contemporary literary and theoretical-literary studies – focused around issues that remain either in the common or peripheral circles of interest – relatively rarely signal the filiations of a musical phenomenon to a literary work. The reason for this state of affairs is to be found mainly in methodological fears, conditioned by competences and the choice of narrow specialisation, and in – eliminating the problem – research skepticism with regard to adequate literary means of presenting music, more precisely: literary assimilation of musical conventions, techniques, construction schemes. However, the diagnosis that would eliminate the issue, outlined for lack of a clearly defined research object and at the same time a suitable methodology, would prove to be not completely justified or even far wrong.

First of all, this is the reason, that “intersemiotic translation”1 and “intermedial transposition”2, the artistic efforts of transposing a musical composition into a literary work, constitute a separate tradition in the history of general literature3 (they function like a kind of topos). At the same time, some literary experiments, especially in the literature of the twentieth and twenty first centuries, on account of their form have become overly provocative, so that without any interpretative consequences we could avoid and not take into consideration the problem of their intersemiotic (intermedial) roots. Secondly, at the time of equal treatment or democratisation of various methodologies of literary research, the “paradigmatic ←11 | 12→‘interregnum’”4, in principle, all kinds of research activities are supported by a similar circumstance of non-procedural, one-off actions. Naturally, the specifics of the solutions on the border of two disciplines largely determine the restraint in the study of the musical entanglements of a literary work. In a certain unique way it is necessary to confront various kinds and irreducible phenomena, to prepare one’s own situation of methodological merging, which Steven Paul Scher laconically defines in the title of the article “Theory in Literature, Analysis in Music: What Next?”5 Interdisciplinary progress is undoubtedly paralysed by the awareness of the lack of universal research tools and the many dangers this brings, including the inability to directly transfer concepts or the minimal scope of simultaneously applying identical terminology in literary research and music research. But the question of methodology, I think, is a secondary complication, indirectly determining the state and (un)attractiveness of music-literary research – the basic difficulty causes, however, a less closely defined form of research model and the conditions of its singular identification. Initially concluding, the incidental nature of music-literary research does not seem to be a result of the complete lack of interest of today’s historian or literary theorist with musical-literary associations; paradoxically it results from general disorientation concerning the formula for defining the subject of research and determining its belonging to a given sphere of research6.

The perspective of research into music in literature

The source of the problem of musical filiations to a literary work, clearly exposed in the light of semiological research, is well known in its general form: the inevitable radical difference of the material of both fields of art hangs over the whole matter of musical-literary connections. A limited range of artistic solutions in the more detailed diagnosis is presented as the result of non-existence in language ←12 | 13→material – as Jean-Louis Pautrot accurately reflects the situation in terrain of literature in two fundamental postulates – of neither “musical notation”, nor also “musical structures”7. From the perspective of semiology it is not possible to talk about any adequate correspondence between the linguistic system and the music system for the reason primarily, to use the appropriate language, of the absence of trans-system signs (the principle of non-redundancy)8. Hence the study of musical phenomena in literature should be located in a slightly different region, in which even perfunctory reflection allows us to assert that some elements or aspects of a musical work appear in a literary work, that they undergo certain artistic interpretations, and often function in the rhetorical sense as constructive pendant. In the context of these dialectical conditions, the most general and fundamental opening thesis, despite apparent restrictions, sounds very cautious – potential intersemiotic relationships may extend not between literature and music, not even between literary works and musical compositions, but between a literary work and an artistic interpretation of a musical work9.

The manner in which the dialectical relationships work10, through which the existence of elements or structural schemes proper to music are feigned in literature, something fundamentally alien to it, is only possible to indicate in the situation of taking a single point perspective of the study and with a detailed analysis of some literary texts.

Designated research optics does not mean departing from semiological conditioning or attempting to avoid them by taking up some kind of hermeneutic discourse, not to be understood as “hermeneutic method”11 (which in fact, does not exist, as constatated by Hans-Georg Gadamer), but as a type of attitude of ←13 | 14→a person who wants to understand someone else12. The source of literary creation, situated outside of literature, implies to a greater or lesser degree research eclecticism and the method of dialectical process. Eclecticism in an interdisciplinary variant means the imposition of two different research perspectives, a kind of “comparative poetics”13 of the borderland; dialectics, on the other hand, is a consequence of this, and it leads to a way of thinking that makes it possible to explain the conditions of the non-translatability of a musical piece into a literary work. At the moment of analysing the experimental construction of literary texts, obligatorily demanding interdisciplinary diagnosis and reference to the musical genre or technique, there is an inevitable necessity of negative action in the field of comparative literature or more broadly: interdisciplinary practices. Analytical-interpretative action takes the form of dialectical argument, in order to establish at the beginning, whether in a given case there is any intersemiotic connection at all, while in the next turn to fully disclose its form and, above all, its semantic function in literature.

The intersemiotic and intermedial entanglements of literary work, in spite of many obstacles in their perception and effective analysis, with increasing frequency form the subject of separate reflection among contemporary literary studies. Calvin S. Brown characterised the problem in such an optic in a modern way in Music and Literature: A Comparison of the Arts (1948)14, placing it in a wider plane of music-literary research. Particular variants of relationships of literature with music are organised there in four issue spheres, concerning in turn: common elements (chapters 3–4), cases of coexistence (vocal music; chapters 5–8), influences of music on literature (chapters 9–17) and – analogously – influences of literature on music (chapters 18–21). The question ←14 | 15→of musical filiations to literary works (third variant) in a logically depicted arrangement of chapters of typology is presented clearly as a separate issue. This is indeed how Brown presented it many times, among other things in the relation between literature and music on the basis of the binary division scheme and assumptions that either there is a relationship between the two arts or not; in the first case, poetry may, on the one hand, “imitate” musical effects, interpret a musical work, while programme music, on the other hand, creates a “narration or description without verbal aid”15.

Similar solutions in effect cause the crystallisation of the narrow theoretical context among the many stranded aesthetic-philosophical reflections developed since antiquity, frequently and according to the various criteria ordered in the studies of historical links between literature and music. In the perspective of interest there remain relatively conceptually coherent working outs in recent decades, situated directly or indirectly in the field of music-literary research16.

Musicality – musicality of a literary work – musical literary text

The general confrontation of elements of literature and music in the light of today’s state of scholarship seems ineffective analytically, unconvincingly theoretically or even impossible17. In the broad field of music-literary studies, where it is difficult to occupy the neutral position of a conciliator, and all the more the position of an all-encompassing and all-powerful strategist, at most it may be possible to episodically describe perspectives in overview, some sort of strategic invariant closer to the character – depending on the form of the item being analysed – of either a musicological research model, or a literary research model. Consideration of musical-literary relationships is never neutral and for another reason, namely the manner of formulating the problemics. Reflection concerning the existence of a fragment of Herodiade by Stéphane Mallarmé in ←15 | 16→Paul Hindemith’s composition (“Hérodiade” de Stéphane Mallarmé), according to the subject criterion remains primarily in the field of musicology but can also be placed in the perspective of literary research by asking for a specific interpretation of the literary text or the condition of the literature outside the literature. This concerns the issue of categorisation – the arrangements concerning musical entanglements with a literary work can be localised in general at the beginning and end on operating with the secure concept of “musical-literary studies” (even just for the sake of the name itself, which defines the intersemiotic and intermedial qualities of the investigated phenomena and the specificity of the action). The problem, however, of literary research, of literary-theory optics, ultimately requires a more precise location among multi-faceted studies spanning a range of spheres and methodological issues18. Taking a closer look at the many potential ways of speaking about literature and music and about music and literature in a scholarly manner it is worth pointing out the orientation of literary research, their primordial perspective, exposed through a schematic view.

The following is Steven Paul Scher’s schematic diagram, considered to be a universal model for music-literary research19, which first and foremost shows the polar possibilities of considering the connections and the parallels arrangements of phenomena (“literature in music” analogically corresponding to cases of “music in literature”). Indeed, its importance in the context of the later proposed distinctions is double – it turns out to be valuable both in general, as it sketches the constellation of potential situations in three complementary planes (music and literature, literature in music, music in literature)20, and in particular, as it ←16 | 17→makes the most important problem here visible, which Scher includes in the name “music in literature”.

This extensive problematic appears directly in the perspective of literary research and refers to three different spheres: the sound layer of the literary text consciously formed through the prism of music (“music of words”), thematisation of music (“verbal music”) and the specific use of musical patterns and techniques in the creation of literary works. The planes presented in Scher’s diagram as separate not only have a slightly different status and are distinguished by individual manifestations, but because of the coexistence of these manifestations in a given literary work, they remain interdependent and will require simultaneous examination.

Generally speaking: this concept of ordering relations does not cause any objections, however, there is a fundamental problem related to the proposed terminology. Divergent propositions of researchers lead in fact to one fundamental and essential change – the category “music in literature” will be renamed to become “musicality of a literary work”. The danger of such a ←17 | 18→terminological resolution is enormous, because the musical filiations with a literary work considered in this way fit expressis verbis in the more complicated aesthetic problem of “musicality” and, consequently, must be situated among many – also those understood interdisciplinarily – variants of the phenomenon. However, they are decided by two basic arguments, ontological and terminological. First of all, it is necessary to point out the complex relationship of literary issues with distinct and divergently defined paradigms of “musicality” (it would indeed be hard to miss the extensive research tradition), secondly – paradoxically, it is impossible to avoid redefining particular categories and subsequent terminological shifts, which otherwise in music-literary studies represent a serious problem in the metatheory plane. Achieving a sort of terminological compromise becomes necessary: the term “music in literature”, in Scher encompasses the whole musical problematic in literature, in Ewa Wiegandt’s typology defines the level of thematisation is the defining factor; and at the same time, the meaning proposed here “musicality of a literary work” refers there to musical construction22 (!). Ultimately, it is worth accepting “musicality of a literary work”, because it immediately emphasises the status of filiation and exposes the singularity of the literary realisations. And perhaps the most important conclusion is that there are no literary conventions for presenting music – only a somewhat individual, one-time effect in a particular literary work is achieved.

In the adopted optics, “musicality” in literature is not an apparent question23, although it must arouse the most far-reaching objections through the prism of the functioning of the concept, one of the most ambiguous in historical and theoretical literary studies to date. It is well-known that simple generalisations regarding this matter do not reflect the real picture of complex reflection in the context of literature, where there is a fusion of several parallel types of discourse. Gross misunderstandings result from the impossible sorting of postulated artistic proposals, essay deliberations, the multi-channelled tradition of ←18 | 19→analytical-interpretative studies, purely theoretical, and especially the episodic findings of literary criticism24. As a result, the widespread abuse of the term may from time to time be subjected to criticism (Scher’s25 article for example), in circumstances of particular intensification of the tendency to metaphorise the language of the description of literary issues – radical polemics (Tadeusz Szulc’s26 essay deserves attention). These conclusions appear in the initial parts of Musicality of a Literary Work, where I attempt to show the dangers of individual use of the term in literary research, and at the same time its potential theoretical value. However, the problem of the parallel coexistence of the manifestations of “musicality” and the ways of categorising the phenomenon in contemporary culture is not the most important issue. Initial arrangements are only important, as long as they make it possible to determine multiple perspectives of research into the musicality of a literary work and construct a broader problem context for one of the three dimensions. Finally, in the centre of interest there will be a case concerning musical constructions in literature, referred to for a number of reasons as musical literary text. A literary work of this kind becomes an artistic interpretation of a musical schema, a deeply subjective interpretation, and not always exclusively verbal because of the presence of “non-literary” elements, such as fragments of musical notation. In such circumstances, the question of how to define a generally used methodology is moot (comparative or interdisciplinary), but the related question, namely: in what field should the study of musical literary text take place? seems to be key. Also if we accept on top of that, that all types of intersemiotic penetration of relationships in a literary work (of a character which is either analytical-interpretative, or just theoretical) are placed in the field of music-literary problematics, then where should we place musical-literary studies in relation to this?

Musical-literary research. Comparative literature

There are fundamental discrepancies in locating musical-literary studies (taken from the side of literature) within literary research, with the emphases in different traditions of research turning out to be very uneven. While the problems of musical-literary connections have been at the appropriate level in American comparative studies for at least a few decades, primarily due to the work Calvin S. Brown (numerous articles, two aforementioned books: Music and Literature; Tones into Words) and Steven Paul Scher (Verbal Music in German Literature, New Haven 1968)27 and with increasing frequency appears in the circle of interest of Western European comparatists (amongst others: Jean-Louis Cupers, Isabelle Piette, Françoise Escal, Jean-Louis Backès, Pierre Brunel, Aude Locatelli)28, it seems that in the Polish research tradition it appears – at least due to insufficient distinction within the framework of scholarly disciplines – something of a terra incognita. In our academic projects, the consideration of musical entanglements with a literary work is pushed to an undefined area (with perhaps full awareness of this), which is frequently difficult to combine on the one hand with broadly understood interdisciplinary studies, on the other however – with comparative literature studies. Undoubtedly, the basic complication has a more general background, and boils down to the theoretical definition of boundaries and to defining the formula of comparative literature; in short, to the question, of whether a wide status is granted to comparative literature studies, a discipline that also includes musical-literary studies, or are understood in the most traditional form29, at most ←20 | 21→broadened by the penetration of literature connections with the visual arts. The last case, to supplement the earlier conclusion, characterises Polish comparative literature30, which not only undertakes, but even – if we can think this – separates itself from musical-literary reflection. This is evidenced by the symptomatic lack of any text about the relationship between literature with music in the relatively recently published Antologia zagranicznej komparatystyki literackiej [Anthology of Foreign Comparative Literature]31, although Ulrich Weisstein in the included article (in the chapter Literatura i inne sztuki [Literature and Other Arts]) clearly signals a “division of labour”32 with Steven Paul Scher.

Central to this essay, the question of musical literary text becomes primarily the subject belonging to one of two branches of comparative research. Musical-literary studies however, in broad terms, should be regarded as interdisciplinary research33, which – taken from the perspective of primary literature review – shows partial affiliation to comparative literature34. The conclusion deals with the present state of scholarship, for a few decades ago the situation presented itself very ←21 | 22→differently in the field of comparative studies, and in the field of musical-literary studies. In the early nineteen sixties Henry H. H. Remak pushed for the concept of coexistence within the discipline of two complementary spheres of reflection following the American version of comparative literature (differentiating at that time from the French appropriation of the problem of intersemioticness)35, and further, nearly ten years later, Calvin S. Brown confirmed the lack of research organised and precisely oriented towards music-literary questions36. In the last five decades interdisciplinary studies (defined as being on the border between literature and music) have been associated with comparative literature37 and in its womb have acquired the status of an independent, clearly distinct branch of research. The fundamental duality of comparative activities is emphasised in some contemporary comparative literature definitions, formulated especially in the vein of Remak’s well-known proposal of 1961 (“it is the comparison of one literature with another or others, and the comparison of literature with other spheres of human expression”38). The dependence and at the same time distinction of intersemiotic issues was emphasised later by Remak during the 8th Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association in a detailed typology, in which interdisciplinary studies occupy the last of the five problem areas of the discipline39.

Due to broadening of the scope of the subject and current research specifics, we speak of interdisciplinary comparative literature40 as a subdiscipline, equal in relation to “traditional” comparative literature. The term appropriately reflects the nature of the annexation, that is, the autonomy of interdisciplinary problematics within the sphere of general comparative studies (discipline level), at the same time, the conditions of overlapping different research perspectives and eclectic behaviour (methodology level). In other words, it defines both the ←22 | 23→type of activity and its place among the various literary studies within modern comparative literature. The interdisciplinary variant of comparative studies is not obviously uniformly homogenous and is generally reduced, as emphasised by Daniel-Henri Pageaux, to the intention of preparation which is either “intersemiotic” (potentially capable of describing two different systems simultaneously), or “transsemiotic41 (allowing analysis of common elements). It would be worthwhile to supplement the observations of the French comparatist, that the formulae of these studies in problematic (methodological) terms require visible modifications, and that these two possibilities should be treated today not so much in the sense of coexistence but in logical consequence. Attempts at “intersemiotic” examination of music-literary relations (of which undoubtedly the best example is Nicolas Ruwet’s42 proposal) replace “transsemiotic” projects; in other words, consideration of potential relationships – initially placed in the field of music and linguistics – is moved into the area of music and literature43.

Most of the reflections on musical inspiration in literature are fairly easy to classify in the general frame because they suit – or fit into the theoretical distinctions given by Jean-Louis Cupers – four essential possible orientations: biographical, traditional musical-literary, analogical and architectonic44. In reality individual strategies in isolation or in a shape, if it could be said, which is methodologically pure, appear extremely rarely, as witnessed by the form of the book by Cupers (Aldous Huxley et la musique) about the formal relationships of Huxley’s prose and essay writing with music. Hence the ordering of musical-literary studies according to individual variants makes it possible to see just basic differences between the existing studies. Here however, there are few conclusions: undoubtedly the most frequently selected option is the biographical (model approaches: X and Y45, X and ←23 | 24→music46), often also traditional musical-literary (music in work X47), much less frequently encountered is analogical (study of musical terms and quotations in literary works or analogies suggested by thematisation of music), and especially architectonic (analysing musical constructions interpreted in literature). In this light, the proposed theoretical outcomes concerning the musicality of a literary work and the analytical-interpretative conclusions of the musical literary text should be situated, in principle, in the last or in the last two problem spheres, with awareness, that this kind of approach still tends to simplification. In the case of a particular literary work, almost every attempt at analytical encompassing of musical-literary relationships in the aspect of analogy or musical structure requires a verifying reference to the biographical plan (commented or not). All argument is in essence sought in a not particularly procedural way, from a variety of perspectives, which in the case of studies of musical literary text leads to the final conclusion – it is only possible to formulate complementary theories concerning the union of a literary work with music.

1R. Jakobson, “On Linguistic Aspect of Translation,” in: On Translation, ed. R. A. Brower, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959, p. 233.

2W. Wolf, “Intermediality Revisited: Reflections on Word and Music Relations in the Context of a General Typology of Intermediality,” in: Word and Music Studies: Essays in Honor of Steven Paul Scher and on Cultural Identity and the Musical Stage, ed. S. M. Lodato, S. Aspden, W. Bernhart, Amsterdam–New York: GA Rodopi, 2002, p. 27 ff.

3More broadly speaking: they belong to the context of all literary relationships with music as one of the historical manifestations, which is well shown by Jean-Louis Backès in a review of the material from antiquity to the present. See J.-L. Backès, Musique et littérature: Essai de poétique comparée, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1994, pp. 139–248 (chapters 5–9).

4R. Nycz, “Dziedziny zainteresowań współczesnej teorii literatury,” in: Ruch Literacki, 1 (1996): p. 2. See also idem, Język modernizmu: Prolegomena historycznoliterackie, Wrocław: Fundacja na Rzecz Nauki Polskiej, 1997, p. 192.

5See S. P. Scher, “Theory in Literature, Analysis in Music: What Next?,” in: Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, 32 (1983): pp. 50–60.

6Complication is most evident in the moment of cross-sectional treatment of the problem of relationships and juxtaposition of research proposals into them. See T. Kowzan, “Coexistence de la parole et de la musique: État de la question et quelques réflexions,” in: Approches de l’opéra, ed. A. Helbo, Paris: Didier Érudition, 1986, pp. 57–67.

7See J.-L. Pautrot, “Introduction,” in: idem, La musique oubliée: “La Nausée”, “L’Écume des jours”, “À la Recherche du temps perdu”, “Moderato Cantabile”, Genève: Librairie Droz S.A., 1994, pp. 27, 28.

8See É. Benveniste, “The Semiology of Language,” trans. G. Ashby, A. Russo, in: Semiotica, 37 (1981): p. 12 (see É. Benveniste, “Sémiologie de la langue,” in: idem, Problèmes de linguistique générale, vol. 2, Paris: Gallimard, 1974, p. 53).

9Compare M. Głowiński, “Literackość muzyki – muzyczność literatury,” in: Pogranicza i korespondencje sztuk, “Z dziejów form artystycznych w literaturze polskiej”, vol. 56, ed. T. Cieślikowska, J. Sławiński, Wrocław: Ossolineum, 1980, p. 77.

10See R. Wellek, A. Warren, “Literature and the Other Arts,” in: eidem, Theory of Literature, New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949, p. 135.

11H.-G. Gadamer, “Epilogue to the Revised Edition,” in: Gadamer on Celan: “Who Am I and Who Are You?” and Other Essays, trans. R. Heinemann, B. Krajewski, Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1997, p. 161 (see H.-G. Gadamer, “Nachwort zur revidierten Ausgabe,” in: idem, Wer bin Ich und wer bist Du? Ein Kommentar zu Paul Celans Gedichtfolge “Atemkristall”, Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1986, pp. 137–156, p. 150).

12H.-G. Gadamer, “Epilogue to the Revised Edition,” p. 161 (see H.-G. Gadamer, “Nachwort zur revidierten Ausgabe,” p. 151).

13See F. Escal, Contrepoints: Musique et littérature, Paris: Méridiens Klincksieck, 1990, p. 12. This is also how the issue is defined by Jean-Louis Backès in the title to the aforementioned book (Musique et littérature: Essai de poétique comparée).

14A precursory work (reprint: Athens–Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1963; reprint with a new foreword: London: University Press of New England, 1987), which is referred to in almost every attempt to categorise relationships of literature and music, was actually completed in the year 1941. See C. S. Brown, “The Writing and Reading of Language and Music: Thoughts on Some Parallels between Two Artistic Media,” in: Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, 33 (1984): p. 17.

15See C. S. Brown, Tones into Words: Musical Compositions as Subjects of Poetry, Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1953, p. 1.

16As to the historical aspect of these studies, see amongst others: C. S. Brown, “Musico-Literary Research in the Last Two Decades,” in: Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, 19 (1970): pp. 5–27; I. Piette, Littérature et musique: Contribution à une orientation théorique (1970–1985), Namur: Presses Universitaires de Namur, 1987, pp. 3–46.

17Gabriel Marcel signalised this at the beginning of the nineteen fifties in a special number of La Revue Musicale, dedicated to French literature and music. See G. Marcel, “Méditation sur la Musique,” in: La Revue Musicale, 210 (1952): p. 23.

18See amongst others: J.-L. Cupers, “Études comparatives: les approches musico-littéraires: Essai de réflexion méthodologique,” in: La littérature et les autres arts, ed. A. Vermeylen, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1979, pp. 63–103; idem, Euterpe et Harpocrate ou le défi littéraire de la musique: Aspects méthodologiques de l’approche musico-littéraire, Bruxelles: Publications des Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, 1988, pp. 13–106 (part 1: Questions de méthode).

19Those who call it a model of ordering of the issues, include amongst others Jean-Louis Cupers (Aldous Huxley et la musique: À la manière de Jean-Sébastien, Bruxelles: Publications des Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, 1985, p. 30) and Isabelle Piette (op. cit., p. 45).

20This three-pronged distinction appears many times in Steven Paul Scher, see idem, “Notes Toward a Theory of Verbal Music,” in: Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, 2 (1970): p. 151; see also idem, “Literature and Music: Comparative or Interdisciplinary Study?,” in: Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, 24 (1975): p. 38.

21S. P. Scher, “Literature and Music,” in: Interrelations of Literature, ed. J.-P. Barricelli, J. Gibaldi, New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1982, p. 237.

22E. Wiegandt, “Problem tzw. muzyczności prozy powieściowej XX wieku,” in: Pogranicza i korespondencje sztuk, p. 104.

23It is enough to mention that the term “musicality” functioned as a subject keyword in Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature in connection with the bibliography published there and that it appeared for the first time – interestingly enough – in reference to the text by Alicja Matracka-Kościelny (“O dźwiękowych transformacjach poezji Iwaszkiewicza,” in: Twórczość, 2 (1988): pp. 69–75). See “Bibliography on the Relations of Literature and Other Arts,” in: Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, 39 (1990–1991): pp. 153–201.

24The difference between the meta-significance of individual discourses is clearly shown in the well-known essay by Thomas Stearns Eliot (The Music of Poetry, Glasgow: Jackson, Son & Company, 1942) with criticism by Henri Meschonnic (see “Musiquer la poésie, c’est signer le signe,” in: idem, La Rime et la vie, Lagrasse: Éditions Verdier, 1989, pp. 199–207).

25S. P. Scher, “How Meaningful is ‘Musical’ in Literary Criticism?,” in: Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, 21 (1972): pp. 52–56.

26T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim, “Studia z zakresu historii literatury polskiej”, No. 14, Warsaw: Skład Główny w Kasie im. Mianowskiego, 1937.

27Also their organisational efforts, among others preparing special editions of the periodicals (for example in the second number of Comparative Literature in 1970 by Calvin S. Brown), collective publications (edited by S. P. ScherLiteratur und Musik: Ein Handbuch zur Theorie und Praxis eines komparatistischen Grenzgebietes, Berlin: E. Schmidt, 1984), and in particular the preparation of a separate bibliography of music-literary research (from 1985 in the Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature has been published and earlier, from 1952, it was included in “Modern Language Association”).

28J.-L. Cupers, Aldous Huxley et la musique; I. Piette, op. cit.; J.-L. Cupers, Euterpe et Harpocrate ou le défi littéraire de la musique: Aspects méthodologiques de l’approche musico-littéraire; F. Escal, Contrepoints: Musique et littérature; J.-L. Backès, Musique et littérature; P. Brunel, Les Arpèges composée: Musique et littérature, Paris: Éditions Klincksieck, 1997; A. Locatelli, La lyre, la plume et le temps: Figures de musiciens dans le “Bildungsroman”, Tübingen: M. Niemeyer, 1998.

29See A. Dima, “Propositions en vue d’une systématisation des domaines de la littérature comparée,” in: Actes du VIIIe Congrès de l’Association Internationale de Littérature Comparée/Proceedings of the 8th Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association, vol. 2, ed. B. Köpeczi, G. M. Vajda, Stuttgart: Kunst und Wissen, Erich Bieber, 1980, pp. 524–525. See also Littérature comparée, ed. D. Souiller, W. Troubetzkoy, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1997.

30See M. Cieśla-Korytowska, “Komparatystyka w Polsce,” in: Ruch Literacki, 4 (1995): pp. 524–525.

31Antologia zagranicznej komparatystyki literackiej, ed. H. Janaszek-Ivaničková, Warsaw: Instytut Kultury, 1997. In a sense Isabelle Piette is correct in the view that in Eastern European countries (with the exception of Hungary) there is avoidance of placing the connections between literature and music under the aegis of comparative studies (I. Piette, op. cit., p. 15). The issue is, however, signalled, for example, by Halina Janaszek-Ivaničková, included in the bibliography of comparative studies works by Calvin S. Brown (Music and Literature) and the essay by Tadeusz Szulc (Muzyka w dziele literackim). See H. Janaszek-Ivaničková, O współczesnej komparatystyce literackiej, Warsaw: PWN, 1980, pp. 231, 232.

32U. Weisstein, “Comparing Literature and Art: Current Trends and Prospects in Critical Theory and Methodology,” in: Literature and the Other Arts: Proceedings of the 9th Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association/La littérature et les autres arts: Actes du IXe Congrès de l’Association Internationale de Littérature Comparée [Innsbruck, 20–25 August 1979], vol. 3, ed. Z. Konstantinović, S. P. Scher, U. Weisstein, Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck, 1981, p. 21.

33See C. Reschke, H. Pollack, “Foreword,” in: German Literature and Music. An Aesthetic Fusion: 1890–1989, ed. C. Reschke, H. Pollack, München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1992, p. VIII.

34See J.-L. Cupers, Euterpe et Harpocrate ou le défi littéraire de la musique (chapter 6: Le comparatisme musico-littéraire, branche de la littérature comparative, pp. 95–106).

35H. H. H. Remak, “Comparative Literature, Its Definition and Function,” in: Comparative Literature: Method and Perspective, ed. N. P. Stallknecht, H. Frenz, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1961, p. 5.

36C. S. Brown, “Musico-Literary Research in the Last Two Decades,” pp. 5–6.

37See C. S. Brown, “The Relations between Music and Literature as a Field of Study,” in: Comparative Literature, 2 (1970): p. 102.

38H. H. H. Remak, “Comparative Literature, Its Definition and Function,” p. 3.

39See H. H. H. Remak, “The Future of Comparative Literature,” in: Actes du VIIIe Congrès de l’Association Internationale de Littérature Comparée/Proceedings of the 8th Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association, p. 436.

40Compare F. Claudon, “Littérature et musique,” in: Revue de Littérature Comparée, 3 (1987): p. 265.

41D.-H. Pageaux, “Littérature comparée et comparaisons,” in: Revue de Littérature Comparée, 3 (1998): p. 293.

42N. Ruwet, Langage, musique, poésie, Paris: Éd. du Seuil, 1972.

43See J.-L. Cupers, Euterpe et Harpocrate ou le défi littéraire de la musique, p. 68.

44J.-L. Cupers, “Approches musicales de Charles Dickens: Études comparatives et comparatisme musico-littéraire,” in: Littérature et musique, ed. R. Célis, Bruxelles: Publications des Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, 1982, pp. 23–47.

45Generally, this is about research or isolated relationships (see W. Bronzwaer, “Igor Stravinsky and T. S. Eliot: A Comparison of Their Modernist Poetics,” in: Comparative Criticism, 4 (1982): pp. 169–191), or many interdependencies (see R. L. White, Verlaine et les musiciens, Paris: Librairie Minard, 1992).

46A good example on account of the cross-sectional approach is a collected work: E. T. A. Hoffmann et la musique, “Actes du Colloque International de Clermond-Ferrand”, ed. A. Montandon, Berne–Francfort s. Main–New York–Paris: Peter Lang, 1987.

47See G. Matoré, I. Mecz, Musique et structure romanesque dans la “Recherche du temps perdu”, Paris: Éditions Klincksieck, 1972.

1Around Tadeusz Szulc’s Muzyka w dziele literackim [Music in a Literary Work]

The context of the pre-war polemics of Tadeusz Szulc48 and his followers (particularly his contemporaries) discussing the “musicality of literature” appears here for two reasons: firstly, to signal the importance of the dispute at the time and the extent of its repercussions as one of the breakthroughs in the Polish theoretical-literary tradition, punctum saliens; and secondly, to place further considerations in the general optics of Muzyka w dziele literackim, but to affirm (against the arguments presented there), that certain possibilities exist on such grounds for undertaking effective musical-literary research from the side of literature. The first issue, essentially a recapitulation, requires calling the fundamental line of “dispute about the non-musicality of a literary work”49 and reviewing the approaches to its theoretical interpretation. In this dimension, the basic accent must be placed both on the circumstances of the creation of the discussion without precedent in the Polish humanities50, as well as its strongly specific interaction in the sense of inspiration or even readiness to acquire negative arguments. In fact, even if this dissertation does not directly inspire contemporary literary researchers on account of its historical and methodological-settlement option, it remains indirectly important as pressing heavily on the post-war tradition of Polish musical-literary studies undertaken from the perspective of history and theory of literature.

As to the second question, namely the speculative form of reception opening the space of musical-literary studies, it should be emphasised that the criticism approach proposed here of “musicality” is not something new, but is undoubtedly preceded by the findings first of Konstanty Regamey in his highly polemical review, somewhat later Tadeusz Makowiecki51. Szulc’s clarifications are supported by them fragmentarily and in a perspective that makes it possible to designate potential research areas for musical entanglements in a literary work. Regamey only brings reflection to the sound sphere of literary text, Makowiecki however sketches the maximum range of consideration, also taking into account cases of interpreting musical construction in literature52. Detailed findings focus on the issue in quite different ways, but their optics turns out to be similar in general due to the eclectic strategy. The ambivalent attitude to Szulc’s postulates is otherwise characteristic of many post-war historians and theoreticians of literature, undertaking various studies of the affiliations of a literary work with music under the direct or indirect influence of negative or – as Stanisław Dąbrowski describes it – “negativistic”53 theses. One could risk saying that every person calling up this dissertation in the form of a context for their own proposals (starting from Makowiecki, who was still interested in the problems of the connections between literature and music in the nineteen thirties) is sentenced – in an individually chosen way – to formulate constructive conclusions from “introduction to the new science about literature”54, to break Szulc’s radically negative optics. Consequently: as far as the proposals are relatively easy to organise in the field of Muzyka w dziele literackim55, so many complications in their classification appear when comparing extremely negative criticism with the state of its research reception, that is, when we pay attention to the aporetical nature of scholarly adaptations or individual appropriations.

The dissertation constitutes, paradoxically, on one hand, the most advanced ex definitione criticism of all discussion about the “musicality” of a literary work (enclave status is only granted to the thematisation of music), and at the same time on the other hand – a serious impulse and context for many research projects of this type56. This is also why its theoretical reception is co-created by two polar interpretive sketching variants: legitimate and speculative. Remaining with challenging the meaningfulness of research on the borderline between the arts in the optics imposed by Szulc in the year 1937, the problem of “musicality” is contained in all forced forms. A completely different perspective opens in the situation when attempting to review the field of destructive criticism directed at metaphorised, pre-war type of literary studies claiming the right to scientific exploration. Then speculative theoretical activity – taking into account many of Szulc’s legitimate postulates, regarding, for example, the non-existence of musical analogies in a literary work – acquires a certain legitimacy. Such action not only leads to direct polemics, but also serves to determine the historical research horizon and a reference point for current activity. Hence the general and radical thesis that: “The musical tendency in literature – both for poets and critics – will always be merely a phantasy presenting itself as a heritage of a romantic approach to art and romantic longings […]”57 – finds a counterbalance, not in the form of criticism, but in a fundamentally different methodological perspective. The rationale is in fact the same, but the type of interpretation is different, in conclusion leading Szulc to closure of the problematic will define a critical starting point in contemporary research.

Conditionings of criticism

A particular source of negative criticism should be seen in the relatively liberal article “Muzyka w dziele literackim” [“Music in a Literary Work”] (Pion 1935, No. 28) which preceded the book by two-years. The two projects are closely related, and it is not without reason that they bear the same title; they are of interest not through the prism of obvious problem convergence, but subtle conceptual differences. It is an important matter, not yet noticed, that Szulc’s initial findings regarding the phenomenon of “musicality” in literature are not of an extremely negative character (“can a literary work evoke a kind of musical experience in us. […] We will answer the above question in the affirmative”58). Further consequences turn out to be secondary, caused by Stanisław Furmanik’s59 basic retort (“Dzieło literackie a muzyka” [“A Literary Work and Music”], in: Pion 1935, No. 37), against the formulated opinions primarily in respect of “phonology” (“‘phonology’ is the only real material that makes it possible to talk about the musicality of a literary work”60). Szulc, in response to violent criticism and defending his own position (“Malum musicale: Odpowiedź P. St. Furmanikowi” [“Malum Musicale: Answer to Mr St. Furmanik”], in: Pion 1935, No. 43) clearly radicalises the point of view and, in a sense, even contradicts himself in comparison with the first article (“literary work is not able to arouse any kind of original, specific musical experiences in us […]”61). Although logical procedures do not yet appear in the course of his reasoning, the conclusions are however formulated in a sharp tone reminiscent of the most polemical fragments of the dissertation.

The signalled exchange of views reveals, I think, the basic impulse of the critical undertaking, explains the circumstances of the formation of restrictive ←30 | 31→views, and indirectly the scale of the presented argumentation. Even if Szulc draws out consequences from the “eccentric”62, in his view, position of Eugeniusz Kucharski, who acknowledged the existence of “musicality”, suggestively eliminating the phenomenon as compromising poetry (“phonics start playing first violin […] poetry turns into a ‘resounding gong or a clanging cymbal’”63), first and foremost he remains under the influence of confrontation with Furmanik and most likely attempts to prevent the emergence of another polemic. In this context, the source of the tendentious character of the dissertation must be considered in the historical dimension from two aspects: firstly, in connection with the crystallisation of individual views, secondly – and especially – due to the tendency in literary studies that has been growing since the beginning of the twentieth century (clearly with the apogee at the turn of the twenties and thirties) for boundlessly indicating the analogy between literature and music. Despite the ahistorically defined problem of musical affiliations in the title, first and foremost the historical aspect is represented quite unambiguously in Muzyka w dziele literackim. The criticism brought forth strikes at the incorrect convention of considering the “musicality” of a literary work, and applies in equal measure to predecessors, as well as to those contemporary to Szulc, and to historians of literature and critics writing “journalistic articles”64.

The image of pre-war research concerning the so-called musicality in literature creates a kind of amalgam: the issue does not raise major concerns, and the term itself functions in a variety of contexts65. Generally speaking, reference to the analogy of literature and music through the use of extremely metaphorised language and without proper argumentation gains popular acceptance. As a result, an example of the form of fugue for Juliusz Tenner will be breakneck analysis of a fragment of Balladyna [Balladyna]66, for Bruno Schulz – the construction of Cudzoziemka [The Foreigner]67. The tendency that prevailed at that time, “a carefree state of unanimity”68, is well characterised by Juliusz Kleiner: “when once it was wrongly claimed that poetry is painting that speaks, painting is silent poetry – today we are inclined to the no less mistaken assertion that poetry is the music of words, music – poetry without words”69. In such circumstances, Szulc’s polemic vigour – to emphasise once again – stems not so much from the intention of sorting out the issue as from the critical crushing of all cases of impressional theorising on the theme of “musicality”. A peculiar lack of discrepancies between the effects of using historical-literary research methodology and criticism tools leads to a general diagnosis, that literary history in the field of presenting entanglements of literary work with music does not differ from criticism70. This allegation appears to be addressed to many Polish literature researchers, assuming a priori, that it reveals the detailed conditions of discussing the “musicality” of one or another literary work, and at the same time points to this connection with the source of the phenomenon in the European aesthetic-philosophical tradition.

Szulc’s strategy

The fundamental problem of the “non-musicality” of a literary work is presented in the canon of observing methodological purity, therefore Szulc’s point of view also turns out to be concurrent in character with the theoretical views of the then Warsaw group71, as signalled by Henryk Markiewicz. The obligatory hermetic strategy narrows the sphere of phenomena a priori to the limits of one field of art: the same literary work can be categorised either in the space of literary ←32 | 33→research, or – since it loses the status of its original autonomy and functions as a deconstructed element of a musical work – in the space of musicological research (for example verbal text in a vocal composition, or as a programme for a symphonic poem). In consequence, the possibility of complementary introduction of the musical context into the scope of literary research is excluded and account is not taken of actions within one of the branches of comparative literature, interdisciplinary musical-literary studies – a matter that should be made more clear today. For a radical supporter of detailed aesthetics or methodological purism, exclusive treatment of individual fields of art (as areas of penetration) is equivalent to exposing irreducible ontological differences72.

Two general postulates formulated in a modern manner precede reframing “critical-negative”73 in the Introductory remarks with the intention of leading to the overall negation of the phenomenon of “musicality” in literature. From one side, Szulc precisely limits the problematics of the studied phenomena to a literary work (“the basic subject to which the group of considerations is applied here – is literary work”74), from the other however, in the methodological dimension, he situates work in the sphere of literary research (“The question that this is about is not a musicological issue”75). In reality, he sets out a constellation of strictly co-dependent aspects: ontological (literary research model) and competence (literary research perspective). One of the key actions seems to be theoretical reflection concerning ontology and competence in contemporary musical-literary studies because it is possible to define the optics and construct an appropriate discourse based on the type of understanding of these various types of categories. Szulc’s whole concept is based on this in a special way – negative argumentation concerns both the competence of researchers and ontology of a literary work at the same time. More precisely, the central issue of Muzyka w dziele literackim is revealed in two aspects: “critical statements” and “‘musical ←33 | 34→form’ of a literary work”76. The disproportions in their treatment can be seen at the first glance; as far as the essential place is taken by the review and evaluation of critical statements, at the same time a completely marginal position is given to the structure of a literary work.

The general perspective of criticism is determined by the basic assumption that “musicality” is not the effect of mutual references between elements of different arts (literature and music), but it results exclusively from different varieties of research metaphorisation. It is easy to see that a lack of wider reflection on “musical” structures in literature is the result of purely biased action, for these types of literary cases were well-known to Szulc, as were proposals to interpret them and to attempts to theoretically organise them77. Perfunctory information appears in the final parts of the dissertation in connection with the research on the musical type of construction of a literary work; Oskar Walzel is recognised as their representative exponent. The important distinctions from Gehalt und Gestalt im Kunstwerk des Dichters, which are only sketchily outlined, essentially concern musical literary structures. This is mainly about Walzel’s reference to Schiller’s three-part typology of “music in literature”, in which the musical construction of a literary work takes central place78 alongside two issues, namely the auditory-acoustic effects of music and its expressive understanding. Szulc does not maintain that these reflections are completely free of academic skepticism (in fact, a methodological battle always surrounds it79), but he immediately counterattacks, recalling in advance the predictable result of Kleiner’s conclusion about the “musical composition” of Balladyna80.

Looking through the prism of the functioning of a musical work81 the non-existence of musical entanglements in literature is supposed to show the variant of considering a literary work as a potentially unchangeable artistic object and a variable aesthetic object (after Gustav Theodor Fechner, Stanisław ←34 | 35→Ossowski and Władysław Tatarkiewicz). The optics here are driven by the psychological dimension and hence Stanisław Furmanik immediately accused Szulc of “psychological error”82 (and Szulc in turn Furmanik – of cultivation of “persistent psychologism” …83). The fundamental division into that which is “artistic” (“objective”), and that which is “aesthetic” (“subjective”), gives a general question: “is it possible to talk about the musicality of a literary work, as we meet at every turn, particularly in our scholars of literature – and also in others”84. To say differently: Szulc places the artistic object methodologically in the centre of interest85, but nevertheless, he formulates insights about this theme indirectly, based first and foremost on “critical statements”. Review of the material – supported by logical procedures – constitutes the final argument that a literary work does not create experiences corresponding to those of the aesthetic musical object. However in this perspective, any question about the existence of “musical directives” in the construction of a literary artistic object or about “‘musical form’ of a literary work”86 becomes rhetorical. Hence some solutions from today’s point of view seem exaggerated, in relation especially to the proof (using strictly logical apparatus), that the only possible methodological basis in the study of the relationship of a literary work with music is analogy87, but this only leads to conclusions which are logically false88. Starting from the criticism proposal and research of literary historians shows the intended marginalisation of the aspect of “‘musical form’ of a literary work”89. The dissertation outlines such a line of argumentation, that selectively recalling important facts, first indicates the historical source of the tendency to spread from the field of aesthetics, and then negatively evaluates the worth of the interpretation arrangements of some literary studies.

The genesis of “musicality”

Szulc described the conditions determining the genesis of “musicality” in literature in a factual way: firstly, by sketching the relationship of the phenomenon with the eighteenth century state of opera together with the dispute between ←35 | 36→buffonists and anti-buffonists (“Lettre sur la musique françoise”90 by Rousseau in the year 1753); secondly, by stressing the precursory theoretical postulates concerning the existence of the synthesis of arts (the concept of the music drama as a result of combining equally important elements: poetry, music and decorations; Stefano Arteaga, Le rivoluzioni del teatro musicale italiano, dalla sua origine fino al presente, 1783), raised to the rank of fundamental by Wagner91; thirdly, by indicating artistic material, the proposals of Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann and Carl Maria von Weber. Juxtaposition of diffuse historical facts makes it possible to formulate an unambiguous thesis with considerable consequences: “it was enough for the proper conditions to arise, and the poets themselves began to strive to ‘musicify’ their works, and began to believe that their poetic work was closely related to musical phenomena. […] The conditions spoken about here define romanticism and all the later trends, which have a basic common bond with it: in musical sensitivity, based on the romantic idea of the world and art lies the genesis of the illusion that musical directives supposedly exist in a literary work”92. Unifying thinking about art, rooted in romantic irrationalism in turn with Schleiermacher (the idea of infinity), Schelling (art revealing the absolute), Hegel and Schopenhauer, founded the arguments for the creation of not only idealistic music aesthetics, but also indirectly – somehow ricocheting – musical tendency in poetry.

The basic conclusions in Muzyka w dziele literackim are derived from the assumption that “musicality” does not apply to poetry, but it comes from the “musical sensitivity of romantic poets”93 (for example Novalis or Tieck); in other words, it only has a psychological, worldview-aesthetic character94. Szulc illustrates this with many examples, following the biographical trope in the ←36 | 37→direction of Polish Romanticism – he recalls the case of Mickiewicz’s musical circle of friends (and Maria Szymanowska), mentions his composition together with Kozłowski to Bohdan Zaleski’s dumka95, quotes fragments from Paris lectures96; he shows Słowacki’s witty comments in his letters to his mother about the Paris stagings of Meyerbeer’s97 Robert le Diable or La muette de Portici by Auber98; and hints at Krasiński’s historiosophical treatment of music. A similar interpretation includes the recurrence of the general tendency and the next expansion phase of postulates concerning the “musicality” of literature in Young Poland’s artistic manifestos, modifying the romantic approach to the world and art. Przybyszewski believed that the enigmatic context in the perception of his works imposed the postulatively formulated ideal of the unity of arts on the recipient, as for example at the end of Zur Psychologie des Individuums (1891): “neue Kunst ausgehen, eine Kunst, die aufhört in verschiedene Zweige getrennt zu werden […]”99. As a result Confiteor is associated with the idea of infinity, and Wigilie with the idea of “yearning”100.

Based on an overview sketch Szulc proved that French Romanticism is characterised by a completely different kind of musical sensitivity to that of other European Romanticisms – that it is above all anti-intellectual (here the examples are Madame de Staël and Stendhal, for whom music is “the least intellectual of all arts”101) and rather avoiding German idealism. Otherwise, his reference to the arguments of Fernand Baldensperger in Sensibilité musicale et romantisme (Paris 1925) in this matter bluntly shows selective treatment of ←37 | 38→the material and a biased approach to the complex issue of “musicality”. The important case of Chateaubriand is completely omitted; meanwhile, according to Baldensperger, not only Madame de Staël and Stendhal, as Szulc proposes, but also Chateaubriand, form “three fundamental sensibilities”102 [les trois sensibilités maîtresses] characterising French Romanticism. What’s more, there is a certain interdependence between them – Stendhal for example, in terms of the type of sensitivity, is placed in very clear opposition to Chateaubriand103. The most important, however, is that Baldensperger does not stop at the ambiguous and enigmatic concept of “musical sensibility”, that he searches for its poetic specifics. And precisely in this context, he uses the term “musicality”, primarily defining the colloquial understanding of melody, linguistic “‘melodic’ effects”104 [effets “mélodiques”], secondarily – aspects of a literary work. Baldensperger recalls it with reference to Lamartine’s Méditations (“in a manner not too glaring”105 – in Szulc’s opinion), amongst others, to determine the rigour of the new poetic order106, that is breaking the traditional alexandrine and introducing versification modifications.

Criticism of the research

In the review of the dissertation Konstanty Regamey wrote, “Szulc in principle – for even purely methodological reasons – is opposed to any discussion about ‘musicality’ of poetry or prose […]”107. The whole polemic boils down to a compilation overview of numerous individual methodologies, in order to then question the phenomenon of literary “musicality”, and after define this as an effect of the psychological perception of a literary work. The problem appears first and foremost through bringing in the statements of various researchers who use musical terminology subjectively, with great freedom utilising terms such as: “‘musical composition’, ‘contrapuntal structure’, ‘musical logic’”108. Such ←38 | 39→methodologically undertaken variants of criticism turn out to be the most effective in realising the main purpose of the dissertation – all negative conclusions are best formulated based on competence criteria. It is therefore worth taking a closer look at the pre-war tendency in literary studies.

Many opinions were formed about the musical nature of the dramas by the creator of Akropolis [Acropolis] many years before publishing the unfinished Muzyka w twórczości Wyspiańskiego [Music in Wyspiański’s Work], where Tadeusz Makowiecki speaks very cautiously about the relationship between the playwright and Wagner109. Walery Gostomski observes the “musicality of Wyspiański’s poems”110 and the relationship of the author with music in general, hence Wesele [The Wedding], for example, is for him “like a great poetic symphony”; Wacław Borowy proposes using the phrase “literary music”111 (to which Karol Wiktor Zawodziński112 returns several times on the rights of an atypical exegete) in belief, that in Noc listopadowa [November Night]: “Musical logic constantly dominates over literary logic”113; Stanisław Lack, treating the terms “musicality” and “poetry” as synonyms, often deploys musical analogies (for example between Wyspiański and Beethoven114), after all, in Wyspiański: “The starting point is always musical […]”115. On another occasion Ignacy Matuszewski – in accordance with the division into two fundamental types of creators (“plastic, visual type and musical, auditory type”116) – wrote about Słowacki’s musical psyche (“mood-music singer”117); otherwise he calls everything which is “artistic”, “musical” (expressions of the type: “music-effusive elements”118 and – related to Anhelli [Anhelli] – “impression of symphony”119); Bronisław Chlebowski, who was willing to add the name “musicality” to all Romantic works, sees parallelism in W Szwajcarii [In Switzerland] with Chopin’s120 Impromptu and Fantasie. Juliusz Kleiner (monograph Juliusz Słowacki: Dzieje twórczości [Juliusz Słowacki: History of Creative Work]) is a little like with Matuszewski, although in the subtle belief of the first (“music did not stimulate Słowacki to poetic creativity […]”121) musical terminology defines artistry and sublimity at the same time. In Szulc’s opinion: “even if in all other mentioned environments and artistic creations there was not even a trace of musical tendency in literature – nevertheless, the problem of musicality of a literary work would still be valid due to Kleiner’s constant use of explaining literary phenomena with the help of music”122. Naming Balladyna by the literary historian as a “musical humoresque” met with crushing criticism in the article preceding Muzyka w dziele literackim123. This time, Szulc criticised the author of work on Mickiewicz (pub. Lwów 1934; Kleiner also retained an exceptional inclination to interpret literary issues there using musical terminology) for treating many of Słowacki’s works as “musical aesthetic objects”124.

The manner of undertaking a review of positions raises some objections on account of the evaluation of proposals for interpreting musical-literary affiliations. Let us take two examples. Szulc does not find convincing enough conclusions in any of the literature scholars, although his approbation – because of general ←40 | 41→skepticism – is won by Józef Ujejski125. This is an interesting matter, for both the differentiation and language of description in the book about Malczewski126, where the author himself explains the non-existence of broader penetration of musical contexts through limited competence127, do not differ from the customs adopted in the era of searching for analogy between literature and music. At the same time, there is a curious lack of remarks about Manfred Kridl’s general but important comments, published in Wstęp do badań nad dziełem literackim [Introduction to Research on a Literary Work] (it is possible that Szulc did not manage to get acquainted with the work published in Vilnius in 1936). Kridl stipulates use of other sciences as suitable aid in analysing a literary work, but nevertheless warns against falling into “‘universality’, seizing everything that is possible, and operating with all of this in a dilettante manner”128. In the reflection on widening the competences Kridl is accompanied by full awareness of the fundamental distinctiveness of literature from other types of art (the ontological incompatibility of fields of aesthetics) and considerable dangers in their mutual explanation129. Undoubtedly, perfunctory formulations characterise the researcher with hermetic optics and on account of his primary strategy, one can reasonably argue, as Maria Podraza-Kwiatkowska, that Szulc’s dissertation in a sense constitutes an extension of his thesis130. Much more can be said at the same time taking into account the suggestions concerning “contact points”131 between general aesthetics and the study of literature, namely that Kridl – in a completely unintentional manner – anticipates the eclectic formula (amongst others contemporary music-literary research) and in this dimension there is no recognition of the author of Muzyka w dziele literackim.


These two polarly opposite research strategies, on one side Szulc’s, on the other for example Kleiner’s, should be treated in a wider sense as mutually exclusive, extremely distant possibilities of activity: either overly affirmative or overly negative. The first type of research creates attempts to clarify the essence of the literary work (especially escaping scientific description) in the course of impressional associations, through analogies with music. For literary specificity, as in the case of criticism, an ennobling comparatum is sought which makes free use of terminological borrowings from different areas of reflection, including music theory, amongst others. In the majority of cases such considerations, clearly distinguishable by a high degree of metaphorisation of the discourse, must be regarded today as of little value and rather deprived of the status of science. In turn the second type of research, the academic character132 of which is difficult to refuse in Szulc’s version, remains very limited due to its a priori negativity (hence the tiny number of similar studies). If, therefore, we agree today with the conclusion that his assessment of the disputed matter is characterised by excessive severity133, a methodological compromise beyond the search for analogy in the logical sense becomes necessary, and so as Regamey proposed – beyond discerning the “identicality”134 between literature and music.

In other words, the form of contemporary literary research, which can be applied in any dimension to musical-literary studies undertaken from the perspective of literature, is determined by the arguments put forward generally from two opposing positions: accepting or negating potential connections between a literary work and music. On the line general aesthetics – detailed aesthetics (eclectic strategy – hermetic strategy)135 there is an immanent conflict of reference points, awareness of which limits the field of positive constatations, and most often leads to the negative formulations. Characteristically, the hermetic strategy effectively closes the problem sphere in the same place in which the eclectic strategy makes it possible to define a potential research area. In the first case, the need for a wider explanation of the adopted position, for understandable reasons, appears extremely rarely and – as the example of Szulc shows – in a radical form. Since the research model almost always determines conditional acceptance, in the second case, the very necessity of introducing the clausula determines the scale of problematisation. Makowiecki’s position, who ←42 | 43→puts forward suggestions about the existence of analogous elements136 would be an exemplification of the eclectic behaviour and the formula of “searching” for solutions. Therefore in the context of Szulc this is not about the total negation of the hypotheses put forward in the thesis, nor the diminishing or excessive exposure of their meaning, nor even explaining the radical character exclusively in the historical plane. Negative criticism can be taken in the belief that it is possible to formulate conclusions regarding the scope and perspectives of musical-literary research on such a theoretical foundation (maximalist option), or more carefully: without entering into direct collision with it (minimalistic option). With certain assumptions, negative conclusions may in many respects be maintained as a starting point or an entry into the aporetical space of musical filiations with a literary work. In this light, Szulc’s proposal to remove the problem of “musicality” from literary studies paradoxically constitutes a preliminary ordering of the wider issue in the metatheory plane137, because he excludes the impressional type of pre-war studies from its area.

The specifics of Polish historical and theoretical literary studies concerning the relationship between literature and music is characterised not only by its two-aspect nature, but – as a result – in a sense, also biphasalism. The two-aspect nature determines the researcher’s position in the theoretical sense and generally shows his positive or negative stand in relation to the issues of intersemiotic (intermedial) relations; biphasalism, in turn, introduces the simplest type of periodisation, reveals a caesura in the research tradition falling on the period of Szulc’s activity in the mid nineteen-thirties. It is not possible to deny the extremely shallow and non-critical interest in the question “before Szulc” – on the other hand, a period of research skepticism or the most cautious approach to the ways of addressing the issue and the adoption of an appropriate discourse starts “after Szulc”. Today the delineation of an acceptable area of musical-literary research in the context of an extremely negative argumentation seems at first devoid of sense. However, it is not possible in contemporary research into affiliations of a literary work with music to not resign from discussion of either exact correspondence or formulating sensu stricto analogies. If, therefore, a Polish tradition of precursory musical-literary studies exists, undertaken from ←43 | 44→the side of literature and still able to inspire, then with certainty its origins reach back not to Kleiner, Tenner and Zawodziński. The post-war stage of this research undoubtedly starts under the aegis of Szulc’s dissertation, which quite effectively paralyses attempts to analyse the musical-literary borderland, and at the same time is a perfect pretext to undertake this task. After all, in the final analysis Muzyka w dziele literackim, against the fundamental thesis, does not eliminate the problem, because it opens one of the basic spheres of his research – the plane of thematisation of music in a literary work138.

48As the author of only one book that interests us here, and a few of the later mentioned pre-war articles, Tadeusz Szulc remains a very enigmatic figure in Polish scholarship, with an almost unknown biography. Most probably he was connected to the musical scene of Poznań, as evidenced in the review text of the second volume of the studies Dziesięć wieków Poznania: “Muzyka [in Poznań] w latach 1870–1918” (pp. 263–273; co-authored by Gwidon Chmarzyński) and the noted position in the bibliography included therein by Kornel Michałowski: “Szulc T., Życie muzyczne Poznania w latach 1900–1939 [memoires]” (p. 274). His name – along with various explanations, amongst others: “critic”, “Doctor, music activist”, “literary man” – appears in bibliographic listings extremely rarely, sometimes next to the identical surname of his namesake, his contemporary “violinist”.

49T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim, “Studia z zakresu historii literatury polskiej”, No. 14, Warsaw: Skład Główny w Kasie im. Mianowskiego, 1937, p. 84.

50See T. Makowiecki, “Poezja a muzyka,” in: idem, Muzyka w twórczości Wyspiańskiego, Toruń: Towarzystwo Naukowe w Toruniu, 1955, p. 1.

51See K. Regamey, “Tadeusz Szulc: ‘Muzyka w dziele literackim’,” in: Ateneum, 3 (1939): p. 522 ff; T. Makowiecki, Muzyka w twórczości Wyspiańskiego, pp. 1–2.

52See T. Makowiecki, pp. 1–29.

53S. Dąbrowski, “‘Muzyka w literaturze’: (Próba przeglądu zagadnień),” in: Poezja, 3 (1980): p. 23.

54T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim, p. 1.

55See K. Regamey, op. cit.; H. Dubowik, “Literatura – muzyka – plastyka: Analogie i kontrasty,” in: Szkice z historii i teorii literatury, ed. J. Konieczny, Poznań: PWN, 1971, pp. 6–7; J. Opalski, “O sposobach istnienia utworu muzycznego w dziele literackim,” in: idem, Chopin i Szymanowski w literaturze dwudziestolecia międzywojennego, Kraków: PWM, 1980, pp. 11–16; S. Dąbrowski, “‘Muzyka w literaturze’: (Próba przeglądu zagadnień),” pp. 21, 24 ff.

56See amongst others: K. Górski, “Przedmowa,” in: T. Makowiecki, Muzyka w twórczości Wyspiańskiego, pp. V–VI; T. Makowiecki, Muzyka w twórczości Wyspiańskiego, pp. 1–2; K. Górski, “Muzyka w opisie literackim,” in: Życie i Myśl, 1–6 (1952): p. 91, reprint in: idem, Z historii i teorii literatury, Wrocław: PWN, 1959, p. 346; S. Żak, “O kompozycji ‘Cudzoziemki’ Marii Kuncewiczowej,” in: Ruch Literacki, 1 (1970): p. 51; J. Błoński, “Ut musica poësis?,” in: Twórczość, 9 (1980): p. 110; S. Dąbrowski, “‘Muzyka w literaturze’: (Próba przeglądu zagadnień),” p. 24 ff; J. Opalski, op. cit., pp. 11–16 (see also abbreviated version of the sketch in: Pogranicza i korespondencje sztuk, “Z dziejów form artystycznych w literaturze polskiej”, vol. 56, ed. T. Cieślikowska, J. Sławiński, Wrocław: Ossolineum, 1980, pp. 53–54, 58); M. Głowiński, “Literackość muzyki – muzyczność literatury,” in: Pogranicza i korespondencje sztuk, pp. 78–79; J. Skarbowski, Literatura – muzyka: Zbliżenia i dialogi, Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1981, pp. 156–157; Cz. Zgorzelski, “Elementy ‘muzyczności’ w poezji lirycznej,” in: Prace ofiarowane Henrykowi Markiewiczowi, ed. T. Weiss, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1984, p. 8; M. Głowiński, “Literatura a muzyka,” in: Słownik literatury polskiej XX wieku, ed. A. Brodzka, M. Puchalska, M. Semczuk, A. Sobolewska, E. Szary-Matywiecka, Wrocław–Warsaw–Kraków: Ossolineum, 1992, p. 551; J. Dembińska-Pawelec, “Jak słuchać prozy Jarosława Iwaszkiewicza? O muzyczności ‘Nieba’,” in: Skamander, vol. 9: Twórczość Jarosława Iwaszkiewicza: Interpretacje, ed. I. Opacki, A. Nawarecki, Katowice: Uniwersytet Śląski, 1993, p. 19.

57T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim, p. 31.

58T. Szulc, “Muzyka w dziele literackim,” in: Pion, 28 (1935): p. 2.

59“Recently, Mr. Tadeusz Szulc addressed this issue, attempting to introduce some order into the chaos of concepts and views on the subject. The attempt, unfortunately, was completely unsuccessful and can only deepen the muddle […]”. S. Furmanik, “Dzieło literackie a muzyka,” in: Pion, 37 (1935): p. 5.

60Ibidem, p. 6.

61T. Szulc, “Malum musicale: Odpowiedź P. St. Furmanikowi,” in: Pion, 43 (1935): p. 8.

62See T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], p. 43.

63E. Kucharski, “O metodę estetycznego rozbioru dzieł literackich,” in: Pamiętnik Literacki (1923): p. 35. Later, in light of the postulatively formulated poetic programme, Tadeusz Peiper maintained a similar view, demanding the isolation of the rhythm of poetry from folk song, to eliminate “barrel-organ harmonies” from poetry. See T. Peiper, Nowe usta: Odczyt o poezji, Lwów: Nakładem Towarzystwa Wydawniczego “Ateneum”, 1925, pp. 41, 43. See also: idem, Tędy, Warsaw: Nakład Księgarni F. Hoesicka, 1930, p. 88; idem, “O dźwięczności i rytmiczności,” in: Pion, 21 (1935): pp. 2–3. As a result, the negative theoretical tendency is defined by Maria Podraza-Kwiatkowska – in the context of Peiper – with the name “antimusical” direction in literary research. See M. Podraza-Kwiatkowska, “O muzycznej i niemuzycznej koncepcji poezji,” in: Teksty, 2 (1980): p. 90 ff.

64T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], p. 40.

65The problem is quite complex even in the case of just Karol Wiktor Zawodziński, who introduces, for example, the division into “internal musicality” and “‘external’ musicality”. See K. W. Zawodziński, “Najśpiewniejszy poeta,” in: Przegląd Współczesny, 10 (1936): p. 120. See also idem, “Pegaz, to nie samochód bezkołowy,” in: Skamander, 57 (1935): p. 13.

66See J. Tenner, “O pierwiastkach muzycznych w poezji Słowackiego,” in: Biblioteka Warszawska, 1 (1910): pp. 520–522.

67See B. Schulz, “Aneksja podświadomości (Uwagi o ‘Cudzoziemce’ Kuncewiczowej),” in: Pion, 17 (1936): pp. 2–3.

68Cz. Zgorzelski, op. cit., p. 8.

69J. Kleiner, “Muzyka w życiu i twórczości Słowackiego,” in: Biblioteka Warszawska, 2 (1909): p. 289.

70T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], p. 37.

71See H. Markiewicz, Polska nauka o literaturze, Warsaw: PWN, 1985, p. 226.

72The Szulcian concept of music is directly related to this and formulated in another place following Eduard Hanslick’s asemantic theory Vom Musikalisch-Schönen: Ein Beitrag zur Revision der Ästhetik der Tonkunst, Leipzig: Rudolph Weigel, 1854 (see E. Hanslick, The Beautiful in Music: A Contribution to the Revisal of Musical Aesthetics, trans. G. Cohen, London–New York: Novello–H. W. Gray, 1891); see C. Dahlhaus, “Eduard Hanslick und der musikalische Formbegriff,” in: Die Musikforschung, 20 (1967): pp. 145–153. See T. Szulc, “Muzyka i teatr,” in: Przegląd Współczesny, 154 (1935): p. 301 ff.

73T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], p. 1.



76Ibidem, pp. 36, 78–83.

77Studies, among others, by Oskar Walzel (Gehalt und Gestalt im Kunstwerk des Dichters, Berlin–Neubabelsberg: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Athenaion MBH, 1923) and Ronald Peacock (Das Leitmotiv bei Thomas Mann, “Sprache und Dichtung”, vol. 55, Bern: Paul Haupt, 1934).

78See O. Walzel, “Musikalische Dichtung,” in: idem, op. cit., pp. 347–349. T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], p. 35.

79Ibidem, p. 85.

80Ibidem, p. 81–82.

81Regamey put forward the objection here of an “unjust definition of music”. See K. Regamey, op. cit., p. 525.

82S. Furmanik, op. cit., p. 5.

83T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], p. 53.

84Ibidem, p. 3.

85See ibidem, pp. 2–4, 85.

86Ibidem, p. 78.

87Ibidem, p. 55.

88Ibidem, p. 78.

89Ibidem, pp. 36, 78 ff.

90See J.-J. Rousseau, “Lettre sur la musique françoise,” in: idem, Oeuvres complètes, vol. 5: Écrits sur la musique, la langue et le théâtre, ed. B. Gagnebin, M. Raymond, Paris: Gallimard, 1995, pp. 287–328 (see J.-J. Rousseau, “Letter on French Music,” in: idem, Essay on the Origin of Languages and Writings Related to Music, trans. J. T. Scott, Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College–University Press of New England, 1998, pp. 141–174).

91Szulc probably owed a lot here to the review article by Zdzisław Jachimecki, “Stefano Arteaga i Ryszard Wagner jako teoretycy dramatu muzycznego,” in: Przegląd Muzyczny, 11 (1912): pp. 1–9; 12 (1912): pp. 1–6; 14/15 (1912): pp. 1–5.

92T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], pp. 6–7.

93Ibidem, p. 13. See also T. Szulc, “Artystyczne idee radiowe i ich geneza,” in: Przegląd Współczesny, 198 (1938): p. 46 ff.

94T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], p. 14.

95See Mickiewicz’s letter to Bohdan Zaleski (Lausane, 7 I 1840). A. Mickiewicz, Listy, part 2, Warsaw: SW Czytelnik, 1955, pp. 307–308 (in particular footnote 3, p. 308).

96The relationship between poetry and music was the starting point for the XIII lecture of the second course. See A. Mickiewicz, Literatura słowiańska: Kurs drugi, trans. L. Płoszewski, Warsaw: SW Czytelnik, 1955, pp. 169–171.

97See letter dated: Paris, 10 XII 1831. J. Słowacki, Listy do matki, ed. Z. Krzyżanowska, Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Zakładu Narodowego im. Ossolińskich, 1952, pp. 40–41.

98See letter dated: Paris, 7 III 1832. Ibidem, p. 49.

99S. Przybyszewski, Zur Psychologie des Individuums: I. Chopin und Nietzsche, Berlin: Fontane & Co, 1892, p. 47.

100An example of Kazimierz Czachowski’s wording: “Longing directed him to music. […] Already in his first works, for example in Wigilie (1894), gave beautiful poetic transcriptions of Chopin’s sounds”. K. Czachowski, Obraz współczesnej literatury polskiej 1884–1933, vol. 1: Naturalizm i neoromantyzm, Lwów: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Książek Szkolnych, 1934, p. 244.

101Quotation after: F. Baldensperger, Sensibilité musicale et romantisme, Paris: Les Presses Françaises, 1925, p. 65.

102Ibidem, p. 68.

103Ibidem, p. 64. Nota bene this fact is clearly emphasised by the layout of subsequent chapters: in so far as chapter 4 deals with Madame de Staël (pp. 47–59), the next concerns simultaneously both Stendhal and Chateaubriand, and in the summary also Madame de Staël (pp. 61–69).

104Ibidem, p. 41.

105T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], p. 26.

106F. Baldensperger, op. cit., p. 118.

107K. Regamey, op. cit., p. 521.

108T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], p. 36.

109Makowiecki’s conclusions (in agreement with Przemysław Mączewski’s formulae) are quite unambiguous: Wagner’s influence on Wyspiański is overestimated, in fact he is pushed to “the third plane” (see T. Makowiecki, Poeta-malarz: Studium o Stanisławie Wyspiańskim, Warsaw: Towarzystwo Literackie im. A. Mickiewicza, Instytut Wydawniczy “Biblioteka Polska”, 1935, p. 239) and limited to Legenda (see T. Makowiecki, “Libretta i dramaty młodości. ‘Legion’,” in: idem, Muzyka w twórczości Wyspiańskiego, p. 38). See P. Mączewski, “Wyspiański a Wagner,” in: Myśl Narodowa, 43 (1929): p. 217.

110W. Gostomski, “Arcytwór dramatyczny Wyspiańskiego: ‘Wesele’,” in: Pamiętnik Literacki (1908): p. 309.

111W. Borowy, Łazienki a “Noc Listopadowa”, Warsaw: Skład w Księgarni W. Jakowickiego, 1918, pp. 8, 13.

112See K. W. Zawodziński, “Wyspiański w świetle teorii Wacława Borowego,” in: Wiadomości Literackie, 1 (1929): p. 2. See also idem, “Na marginesie jubileuszu Wyspiańskiego,” in: Droga, 9 (1933): pp. 775–793.

113W. Borowy, op. cit., p. 63.

114S. Lack, Studia o St. Wyspiańskim, selection and foreword S. Pazurkiewicz, Częstochowa: Księgarnia A. Gmachowskiego, 1924, p. 230 ff.

115Ibidem, p. 231.

116I. Matuszewski, Słowacki i nowa sztuka (modernizm), Warsaw: Gebethner i Wolff, 1902, p. 74 ff.

117Ibidem, p. 129.

118Ibidem, p. 289.

119Ibidem, p. 332. Similar terminology is used by Tadeusz Grabowski, making remarks about Stefan Żeromski: “language becomes essential singing, and pages language symphonies. […] The period is like a prelude”. T. Grabowski, Wstęp do nauki literatury, ze szczególnym uwzględnieniem literatury polskiej, Lwów: Nakład i własność K. S. Jakubowskiego, 1927, pp. 74–75.

120B. Chlebowski, Literatura polska porozbiorowa, edited and foreword M. Kridl, second edition, Lwów: Wydawnictwo Zakładu im. Ossolińskich, 1935, p. 193.

121J. Kleiner, op. cit., p. 300.

122T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], pp. 45–46. See ibidem, pp. 47–52.

123See T. Szulc, “Muzyka w dziele literackim,” in: Pion, 28 (1935): p. 2.

124T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], p. 50.

125Ibidem, pp. 51–53.

126See J. Ujejski, Antoni Malczewski: (Poeta i poemat), Warsaw: Nakładem Księgarni Trzaska-Evert-Michalski, 1921, pp. 386, 388, 389, 390.

127See ibidem, pp. 384, 390, 394.

128M. Kridl, Wstęp do badań nad dziełem literackim, “Z zagadnień poetyki”, No. 1, Vilnius: Z zasiłku Funduszu Kultury Narodowej, 1936, p. 197.

129Ibidem, pp. 198–199.

130See M. Podraza-Kwiatkowska, op. cit., p. 90.

131M. Kridl, op. cit., p. 198.

132See M. Głowiński, “Literackość muzyki – muzyczność literatury,” p. 78.

133See J. Błoński, op. cit., p. 110.

134K. Regamey, op. cit., p. 527.

135See S. Dąbrowski, “Wobec ‘Koncertów brandenburskich’ Stanisława Swena Czachorowskiego (z rozważań wprowadzających),” in: Ruch Literacki, 6 (1979): p. 459. See also idem, “‘Muzyka w literaturze’: (Próba przeglądu zagadnień),” pp. 20, 21.

136T. Makowiecki, Muzyka w twórczości Wyspiańskiego, p. 7.

137From the moment of its publication Muzyka w dziele literackim has been treated this way, as evidenced by the excerpt from the three-sentence review, published in Muzyka (1937, No. 7/8, p. 236): “Many of the author’s comments and conclusions are worthy of recognition and may contribute to the systematisation of concepts”.

138See T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim [monograph], p. 87. Therefore, the overall context of Szulc’s dissertation is most often referred to when considering the subject of thematisation of music in literature. See K. Górski, “Muzyka w opisie literackim,” p. 91. See also M. Głowiński, “Muzyka w powieści,” in: Teksty, 2 (1980): p. 98.

2Musicality – musicality of a literary work

The characteristics and the concept of musicality

The first remarks about the musicality of a literary work should be limited to terminological issues and refer to the strict understanding of the concepts; meanwhile, the only definition of “musicality” which can be formulated at the outset presents itself extremely imprecisely – there is no single “musicality”139. In fact, to start any sensible theoretical-literary considerations, it is necessary to accept the existence of at least two of its antonymic and complementary sources in music, namely one from the circle of nature, the other from the circle of culture. Subsequently, the key problem arises of distinguishing between two parallel interdisciplinary meanings, proper and metaphorical, whose ranges relate to fundamentally separate ontological spaces, irreducible with respect to each other: musical work (the etymological meaning of the term) and literary work (etymological and rhetorical meaning)140. Understandably, from the perspective of literary research, the interest must primarily be in the meaning of “musicality” not as a feature immanently defining a piece of music (frequently very much like literariness – literary work), but, so to say, the meaning of the term transplanted to another field of the arts141. In such situations, this is always about taking ←45 | 46→terminology in a way that does not completely deprive it of the original notion of referentiality, that is, does not condemn it to non-referentiality or self-referentiality (characteristic of literary criticism). In literary studies, “musicality” is intended to suggest a certain but not more clearly determined source relationship between literature and music142, between a given author and composer, between some literary aesthetics and musical aesthetics, between certain aspects of a literary work and aspects of musical composition, etc. It is enough to recall these few elementary relations to formulate the conclusion that without proper clarification the term in general form only reveals the order of a multi-stage metaphorised discourse, combined each time with a different problem sphere.

Nevertheless, even in developed form the term – captured by an important specification in the formula “musicality of a literary work” – remains far insufficient to locate many issues, and at most explains the interdisciplinary shift (hence, in a sense, this allows us to avoid writing in quotes). It still lacks sufficient focus in the narrow context of a literary work on account of the multiplicity of connotations: firstly, it implies a huge sphere (it would be better to say – spheres) of diverse and divergent phenomena, related to the literary interpretation of not only of the music of culture but also of the music of nature; secondly, it appears in research viewpoints distant to each other or fundamentally incompatible. In other words, “musicality” beyond certain nuances of a literary work, beyond defining features of the text and an indeterminate type of textuality in relation to the certain degree of the musical character of the author’s aesthetics, also characterises the researcher’s position, his interpretative strategy. Jan Błoński, in considering the manifestations of “musicality” in literature, not without reason chose the trope of reflection about the reception of a poetic work and analytical contexts in which he discussed the whole phenomena143. In essence, it is impossible to avoid the problem of immanent interference between “musicality” as a feature of a literary work and as a literary theoretical concept144. If Danièle Wieckowski imposes the “idea of musicality”145 on Mallarmé’s Hérodiade, this ←46 | 47→determines the property of the literary text and at the same time the strategy of constructing the interpretation field, conditioned by aesthetic consciousness. One could accept the assumption based on the quoted example, most typical in literary studies, that the term allows various uses only on its own account. The specific operation of nominalisation of the argument is otherwise bordering this second-order effect, only just within the scope of theoretical discourse. In the commentary to Verlaine’s146 Romances sans paroles Jacques Borel does not use the concept of “musicality” expressis verbis, although Michał Głowiński147 uses it as a mental shortcut in reference to his analysis; Tadeusz Makowiecki resigns from the term (undoubtedly under the influence of Szulc’s monograph), which, however, does not prevent Krystyna Jakowska from using it in the context of Muzyka w twórczości Wyspiańskiego [Music in Wyspiański’s Work]148; the word does not appear in Le grain de la voix149, but it helped Eva Kushner summarise Barthes’ essay considerations on several occasions150.

All such cases of the functioning of terminology greatly complicate historical conditions, not so much modeling the frequency of the term depending on literary tendencies (the multitude of attempts to realise the ideal of musicality151), as much as particularly shifting accents between its different connotations and their subjective understanding152. It is curious that apart from ontological ←47 | 48→criterion the most powerful argument to undermine the operational value of the concept (both by dictionary and contextual imprecision) has not been sufficiently exposed by today’s opponents of the use of similar terminology in literary studies153. Meanwhile, the most cursory reflection reveals a fundamental paradox: there is nothing simpler than to claim “musicality” of one or another work on account of some of its language features or construction, and at the same time nothing more difficult than to select in general and explain its potential manifestations, to speak – as Mieczysław Tomaszewski proposes – about the “musicality of literature154. This paradox, serving as material for polarly opposite interpretations, above all else shows the non-existence of convention, which would lead to the creation of specific phenomena commonly associated with the term in the case of a literary work155. At the same time, he explains both the singularity of the theoretical application, the source of particular analytical-interpretative difficulty, followed through with the most wan effect at the moment of taking over the convention of generalising from criticism, and metaphorical assignment of hidden features to a literary work concealed under an enigmatic name. Briefly concluding, in the light of the introductory reflection, a basic objection arises on the one hand, that despite quite widespread use, the term “musicality” as potentially useful in literary research, and in today’s practice is almost completely worthless156, semantically self-disqualifying, must be subjected to fundamental and severe criticism; on the other hand, the conviction persists, that all expressed doubts about the lack of precision in definition in reference to the details of textual reality (and even a minimal ability to organise ←48 | 49→them) do not concern the existence of complicated problematics of the musicality of a literary work.

The paradigms of “musicality” (an attempt at a survey)

A general treatment of the meaning of “musicality” in the context of research in literature is neither safe nor effective, since it leads either to doubtful theoretical generalisations157 or gives primacy to excessive skepticism, which to some extent is difficult to call into question158, or leads to an insufficiently critical (often naive) point of view. Hence the necessity to consider the issue in the optics suggested at the beginning, which makes it possible to finally bring out detailed arguments and consider how feasible it is to establish the frequency and range of particular “musicalities”. At the initial stage of reflection the analytical approach with such assumptions reveals not just subsequent paradigms of the term159, and, above all, the question of their consistency (the existence of or lack of coherence); in other words, the degree of derivation of individual meanings provokes the consideration of whether these individual paradigms serve (and to what extent) to define them in the same way. There is therefore a need for selective separation and ordering of various planes and points of intersection of contexts of “musicalities” through schematic attempts to apportion these. In any theoretical position taken as a result, the basic difficulty of the problem of diagnosis comes down to the formula of categorising many “musicalities” and refining the dependencies between them. In order to find out the clear referentiality of the term (without taking into consideration historical modifications), the theoretical approach proposed here in the form of the simplest or most trivial distinctions in no way constitutes a closed whole and does not exhaust all manifestations. The construct, on account of the very nature of the issue, must take the form of an open typology, which only reveals some traces ad hoc in the labyrinth of the dictionary of “musicality”, traces leading to localisation of the symptoms of the musicality of a literary work.

The moment we centre attention in both literature and literary research, the first task is to introduce an overarching and elementary division, a kind of subject typology. As a consequence, a constellation of perspectives on the view is outlined, which determines the divergences in the argumentation: “musicality” presents itself somewhat differently in music160 (even when the conclusions through the prism of musical composition refer to a literary work161 or to poetry in general162), somewhat differently in literature, and differently again in philosophy163. Therefore, in the area of musical-literary research, the functioning of the concept would also have to be considered simultaneously in four selected zones. These are: direct connections between literature and music (songs, opera), general aesthetics (description of the relationship between arts), literary inspirations in music and, analogically, musical inspirations164 in literature. This area blurs the semantic differences between paradigms of “musicality” and clearly makes effective selection more difficult to carry out. Taking on the last sphere of issues in the context of a literary work coincides with the indicated complications that ←50 | 51→determine all literary theoretical arrangements. So, on account of the fusion of the “ideal of musicality”165 (or the “idea of musicality of literature”166) with certain phenomena in the literary work, a fundamental difficulty arises in distinguishing the subject of research. This directly implies a universal typology, that in the passing we can call communicative, which shows that two “musicalities” always coexist (whether consciously or not), in the understanding of sender and receiver; somewhat similar – to paraphrase Barthes – as two kinds of music: for playing and for listening to167. Remaining within the boundaries of literature and speaking accurately, in the rhetorical sense literary text as a potential medium for many “musicalities” presents itself differently to the reader than to the author, and their convictions about its musical character can turn out to be very divergent. Often a literary work contains certain genological symptoms; much more frequently, however, the feature of “musicality” is imposed on it secondarily through different takes on interpretation (also by the author), which perfectly explains the case of Thomas Stearns Eliot. Burnt Norton read even through the prism of the final name of the cycle, Four Quartets (where the title connotation provokes suspicion), raises musical problematics to a negligible degree, the whole cycle also read through the essay “The Music of Poetry”168 perhaps reveals its “musicality” as argued, amongst others, by Marcello Pagnini in “La musicalità dei ‘Four Quartets’ di T. S. Eliot”169. Thus, a huge problem arises in the research field about “the manner of expressing musicality in the title”170 and the manner of interpreting paratextual information in identifying intersemiotic and intermedial filiations.

If we recognise that one “musicality” is constructed according to a defined, conventionalised procedure at the stage of artistic creation (literary interpretation), in turn, the other is perceived integrally at the stage of analysis of a given text and in the situation of knowing the applied convention, the division caused by communication strategies would be deprived of primary significance. But the existence of features of “musicality” once, despite text signals, is generally not noticed at all, other times – turns out just to be writer’s mystification (through commentary, foreword, etc.) or a very doubtful, unverifiable interpretation hypothesis. It is necessary to pay closer attention to this aspect of the issue, namely the lack of artistic conventions in connection with the phenomenon in literature and, consequently, the extremely non-procedural interpretation of its manifestation. This is probably the place of reflection prejudging all positive and negative conclusions, the starting point for the fundamental ordering of various questions of musicality of a literary work. The unconventionality of the artistic activity here only decides directly about the existence of individual realisations, depending on certain basic limitations derived from the model of literary genres. Just how important generic typology171 turns out to be, distinguishing, in particular, phenomena occurring in the realm of drama from those appearing in poetry and prose, can be seen at the moment of attempts to realise “musicality” at various levels of a literary work. As far as the example of “musicality based on consonants”172, considered by Paul Vernois in the context of Jean Tardieu’s language experiments in dramatic arts, does not yet show the fundamental discrepancies, so “musicality based on rhythm”173 clearly indicates the demarcation line. A borderline exemplification of this, as will be seen later, is the construction of one of the scenes Judasz z Kariothu [Judas Iscariot] by Karol Hubert Rostworowski, created on the basis of simultaneous leading of many voices and ←52 | 53→the effect of polyphony, which does not find a poetic equivalent on such a scale (the type of simultaneity implied in prose seems to be different in principle174).

So far, the communication-generic specification presents the range of problems of “musicality” in literature in a general manner, while a more detailed perspective reveals a typology which is extremely difficult to characterise briefly, and which is most important for final proposals, which we can agree to call text levels. It schematically separates the three open problem areas in which phenomena commonly associated with the musicality of a literary work occur, or in which they are situated. These areas of research, subject first of all to the rules of poetics, for the preservation of the terminological source will be defined successively in a uniform manner as: musicality I, II and III175. In this light Musicality I defines all manifestations related to the field of sound instrumentation and prosody, consciously shaped both in relation to music of nature and to a lesser extent to music of culture in general, although incomparably more precisely than the term in its elementary form. Musicality II is limited to the level of thematisation of music, ways of presenting (particularly descriptive ones) aspects of a musical piece in a literary work, but also – accidentally – presenting music in its natural state. Musicality III concerns the interpretation of musical forms and techniques in a literary work, and is characterised by its strongly specific formal referentiality176, which refers to the construction of the musical composition and is associated ex definitione exclusively with the music of culture. Remaining with the general ←53 | 54→initial term and modifying its ranges of meaning through a schematic division (with mathematical notes included), I will try to show that a close relationship often appears between similarly labeled text levels (in the context of a specific literary work). A review of the frequency of “musicalities”, numerous applications, amongst others, even in the interpretations of Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz’s creative work, should in passing bring an answer about the question of what the terminological problem is in detail and how big it is in modern literary studies. As part of this undertaking, it is not enough to perform a theoretical-literary narrowing to the “musicality of a literary work” – the whole procedure of basic ordering of various literary realisations should be integrally complemented with further distinctions.

Three musicalities of a literary work

The transition to considering the next levels of literary phenomena, which have just been defined as musicality I, II and III, does not indicate a definitive solution. Within their range, undoubtedly, it is necessary to introduce many detailing specifications, to break the stereotype of “musicality” as an undefined phenomenon in literature177. If, however, it becomes necessary to speak about three types of musicality of a literary work in the sense of a theoretical construction, which eliminates the unconscious or unintentional identification of particular issue areas, at the same time, something completely opposite about the functioning of the term itself should be said: metaphorically characterised textual elements can in most cases be successfully examined with the aid of commonly accepted and more precise academic terminology, i.e. traditional poetic tools178. In other words, this is not about creating synonyms for concepts that already exist, because none of the three musicalities has a terminological counterpart in the field of poetics, but about flagging up problem areas. Discrepancies between these lead to the first task – each of these fields has its own specificity, which must be identified and characterised in isolation. At first glance, it can ←54 | 55→be seen that the status of the phenomena of musicality II does not cause much doubt, that musicality III as for the subject of the study requires, in comparison with the other two, decidedly the broadest argumentation and evidence exemplification, that musicality I (indisputably dominant in terms of the number of aspects) brings much more serious metatheoretical than analytical (rhetorical) difficulty and hence best presents the terminological problem in connection with the paradigms of “musicality” in literature.

Musicality I

The manifestations of musicality I, regardless of the intensity with which they appear in the literary text and as far as they are exposed at the analytical stage, are treated as the most basic – in the sense of universality, not the degree of complexity – amongst the issues of musicality of a literary work179. In fact, agreement about the nature of the problem turns out to be only superficial and, for this reason, amongst others, requires a very thorough explanation. It would be easiest to maintain that musicality I does not categorise non-literary phenomena, that it does not directly concern language in and of itself, and if it refers to research about itself, it is only in relation to the aspects formed in a given literary text180. The focus of our interest should be on the updated aspects of artistic language, since the proposed understanding of the concept is unambiguously linked with literature and the musicality of a literary work. However, even the simplest combination of literary or theoretical literary commentaries is enough, for which it is necessary to indicate a place here due to the functioning of the term and the type of problem; this results in a different picture, complicated by the border inconsistency of research perspectives. It is easy to see that cursory reflection on the nature of poetic language, indicated already by Boris Eikhenbaum in the field of Russian formalism181 is not necessarily of secondary importance. Otherwise, the ←55 | 56→question remains open today on account of the term’s linguistic connotations, even if we avoid the distant facts, especially those preceding Szulc’s criticism, for example, Karol Wiktor Zawodziński’s proposal to define “musicality”, who is trying to characterise the immanent feature of language (“song heritage”182) in this way. Today, it is applied, amongst others, as a very specific criterion of language in general: it is with this intention that Bohdan Pociej proposes the term “situated musicality”183, which in another place he also defines as “potential musicality”184, in order to argue the metaphysical aspect of every language. Adam Kulawik in turn, operating with the meaning of the term in the linguistic plane, links “musicality” on the margins of Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński with the natural frequency of vowels (“the musicality of our speech”185).

I combine the initial difficulties with musicality with the separation or reduction of issues to the sphere of a given artistic language, further – by bringing out the individual character of analytical-interpretative concepts and, as a consequence, by examining the terminological problematics. In first seeking theoretical optics, the main point of reference should be directed first and foremost at the strategy proposed by Czesław Zgorzelski, the strategy of problematic demystification186, around which it would be possible to organise various reflections in the sense of central or peripheral localisation. In a few close-ups, concerning in turn: sound instrumentation, rhythm, rests, tempo and intonation, it is shown with great subtlety that all of the listed elements of “musicality” have a purely literary character; moreover, the fact that they possess individual names indicates their acceptance within poetics. Zgorzelski introduces valuable and necessary ordering, but at the same time he attempts to find strict analogies between the construction of a musical work and the construction of a literary work through ←56 | 57→the prism of “musicality”, and this makes it impossible to formulate conclusions which reach further. They arise spontaneously in the context of the previous discussion – the cases of musicality I do not appear as conventional figures, definable in the sphere of poetics, but as one-off phenomena within the boundaries of a particular work. As a result, the first of the three musicalities of a literary work is not equivalent to either one or all of the previously mentioned elements. Study of this focuses on the effect of their secondary semanticising, added situational functionalisation, which – as a result of the existence of musical inspiration – shows the source of the unconventionality of the presentation.

In these circumstances, the term “musicality” appears marginally in a directly evaluative sense, in the form of a criterion of the quality of poetry, revealing the multiplicity of such paradigms not only in the field of musicality I which are ennobled in the common feeling of researchers by using terminology. Bohdan Pociej makes a selection based on the type of sound formation of “average poetry”, starting from the assumption that it: “stops in its poetic flight just at the level of this rhythmic-euphonic music”187. But at the same time it is indisputable that the paradigms of musicality of a literary work – whether they are trying a priori to define the specificity of some versification systems188, or the particulars of an artist’s idiom, or the specific use of language in a given literary work – above all else become a criterion of poetic language. The multiple uses of the term are provoked indeed by the nature of the poetic language: either too difficult for the researcher to define precisely, or – after analysing the rules of configuration – placed by him under the title of conclusions in the most concise and lexically effective form. In the first situation “musicality” functions as a word-key (in fact, rather as a word-skeleton key189), exhibits a kind of dispersed referentiality; in the second, referring to a specific work, presents focused referentiality and appears on the basis of contextual synonym. The meaning of the concept in the formula, “Zygmunt Mycielski […] connected the musicality of Iwaszkiewicz’s last works with superb leading of a phrase, avoiding external, primitive effects, and above all with the skill of choosing words honed to perfection […]”190, is created by the mode of dispersed referentiality; just like in the case of Joanna Dembińska-Pawelec’s observations that: “broadly understood musicality lying deep inside the structure (as some people want: of all) of Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz’s literary works”191, or Jerzy Skarbowski’s conclusions on the theme of “musicality of rhymes”192 in Mickiewicz. Commentaries around specific literary texts are situated in opposition, I think, to this type of theoretical discourse, which as a result (often desirable) turns out to be an unverifiable generalisation and the highest degree of metaphorisation of the language of description. The rigour of analytical confrontation of hypotheses, expectations on the part of the interpreter for their legitimisation in the light of the text, leads to a slightly different, verifiable use of the term. Naturally, in the context of a literary work, the notion of “musicality” does not acquire final legitimacy – we know then what becomes the reason for its application and what it tries to define. “Musicality” in reference to Eliot’s Eyes that last I saw in tears characterises, in Jan Błoński’s opinion, is the effect of sound instrumentation, in reference to Uwertura [Overture] to Niobe – as proposed by Adam Kulawik – the “phonic layer”193. Such a paradigm of the term, in accordance with earlier findings, does not function as a synonym for instrumentation and the sound sphere in general, but as a synonym for shaping sound layer within a particular literary text194.

Briefly concluding, fundamental complication in the plane of musicality I leads to a point of view once oriented to the study of language in general, and at ←58 | 59→another time – to the study of artistic language. To expose differences and hidden dangers in their explanation a juxtaposition of examples of parallel meanings of “musicality” reveals two fundamentally divergent strategies for using the term, from which in the chosen perspective only one can be considered as methodologically validated. To refine the scope and hierarchy of the issue once again, in consideration of musicality I this is not about the immanent phonetic formation of a language, but about the order given in an individual way in the sound layer of a given literary text, not about onomatopoeia, for example, which “makes the most noise in language”195, but about the specific situation of its artistic acquisition, about the type of process of its literary recontextualisation. Musicality I always reveals itself through the technique of individual notation and it is more strongly argued, the more additional text signals are found, especially in the dimension of musicality II. As a result, its research is not only about looking for stricte elements of “musical organisation”196 in lyrical expression, or exclusively about language exploration in general; paradoxically, it is an indirect action, explaining the musical source of the sound quality of one and not another literary text.

Musicality II

Musicality II seems to be the least controversial with regard to the nature of the phenomena involved in the literary work in comparison to the other two and presents itself rather differently in relation to them for two interrelated reasons. Firstly, the relations of literature to music in this sphere often take on a very artistically clear expression; secondly – with almost no place here, in extreme contrast to musicality I, the necessity of terminologically cleaning the terrain. As a consequence of the appearance of literary presentations of musical work (more broadly: music) in the strongest possible form, expressis verbis, they cannot be speculatively excluded from the scope of the study of a literary work. The directness of the musical context, which manifests itself through various types of thematisation of music, also determines the terminologically highly characteristic form of conceptualisations. In certain situations, there is no need to metaphorise theoretical discourse: the term “musicality” becomes unnecessary when the analysis is reduced to a specific description of music or a relatively transparent functionalisation of the musical composition in a literary work.

1) [MUSICALITY]. The issue of the phenomena of musicality II in general terms turns out to be fairly indisputable, so that even Szulc, finding no negative argument197, merely methodologically eliminates the whole problem of thematisation of music from the issues of “musicality”. In the conclusion of Muzyka w dziele literackim [Music in a Literary Work] it is acknowledged that music can be: “only just an object falling within the realm of the reality of the literary work, which creates its own literary material and directives for itself”198. It is worth signaling the result of pre-war criticism mainly because it is possible to later perceive its clear consequences in the Polish theoretical-literary tradition. This is why Tadeusz Makowiecki and Konrad Górski (undoubtedly remaining under the influence of Szulc’s proposals) formulate all observations about the relationships between a literary work and music without referring to the term “musicality”199. Today, however, the problem of terminology seems to be much more complicated and only reveals itself when getting to know the range of theorising. Górski’s type of discourse becomes possible in the case of analysing musicality II in isolation from the other two musicalities of a literary work, that is, by limiting the sphere of study to, for example “music in literary description”. But at the moment of locating both manifestations of musicality I and musicality III in the plane of view (signalised via musicality II) a specific need for use of the term arises. In the context of this kind of modification of the theoretical language, Michał Głowiński’s solutions are particularly interesting: while the term does not appear in the field of a hermetic review of the issues of literary thematisation of music (“Muzyka w powieści” [“Music in the Novel”]200), at the same time, it is key in the field of a wide study of the musicality of a literary work (“Literackość muzyki – muzyczność literatury” [“Literariness of Music – Musicality of Literature”]201).

2) MUSICALITY. It would be a truism to claim that the range of musicality II has nothing to do with the issue of musicality of a literary work and that it is not presented in literary studies in this way202. Also in this plane there is an ←60 | 61→immanent two-channelled reflection, which places “musicality” both as a feature of a literary work and as a theoretical notion in the centre of interest. However, without an appropriate definition of the research perspective and the acceptance of a specific discourse, it is difficult however to recognise the Stanisław Żak’s methodological postulate that: “The musicality of a literary work can be considered in various aspects and it is necessary to look for it in the linguistic-stylistic layer as well as in the content-plot layer”203. Apart from analytical-interpretative solutions connected to the form of a literary work, there are metatheoretical proposals which would be difficult to consider as being of secondary importance; while explaining Iwaszkiewicz’s idea Maria Jędrychowska unambiguously puts Górski’s terminologically careful considerations in the plane of “musicality”204. However, the fundamental problem of musicality II appears at the moment of methodologically oriented ordering of coexisting elements within a given literary text, in other words, in the most common situation of internal textual, intra-textual interpretation. In this respect, Alina Matracka-Kościelny goes a long way in establishing the hierarchy of theoretical solutions, formulating an opinion concerning the role of “music-thematicism” in the function of a metatextual signal: “The next kind of paradox in the sphere of poetry and music in Iwaszkiewicz’s works is the fact that music-thematicism as one of the most obvious and directly influential criteria of musicality of poetry in general in Iwaszkiewicz’s later collections is a feature which occurs much less frequently, even disappearing when compared with earlier works”205. So to avoid imprecise definition this would be about cases such as: the “musicality of poetry in general”, when musicality II signals specific phenomena of musicality I or musicality III (and not some abstract property) due to the value of its readability. In addition to the intra-textual interpretation understood in this way, there is also another complementary possibility to examining the manifestations of musicality II, which through analogy is most easily described as extra-textual, intertextual interpretation206. The specificity and purposefulness of this study is indicated by Bohdan Pociej in one of the selected types of “musicality”, and ←61 | 62→namely when the music becomes: “the subject presented in works of narrative prose, and it is presented in two ways: as fictional music, invented, the creation of literary imagination (Sława i chwała [Fame and Glory], Czwarta Symfonia [Fourth Symphony]), just as Mann did (in Doktor Faustus) or Proust, and – as a specific existing work (Sny [Dreams], Mefisto-Walc [Mephisto-Waltz])”207. The difference between two conventionally signed interpretations, intra-textual and extra-textual, does not rely on the possibility of optional choice (which analysis of the functioning of the description of music in the novel by Philippe Sollers Le Coeur absolu [The Unlimited Heart] indicates), but is reduced to the nature of a review. Musicality II in the case of intra-textual interpretation (oriented to textual conditions) presents itself only in the form of the literary subject of the study, while in the case of extra-textual interpretation (intertextually or intersemiotically oriented) opens an interdisciplinary space of reflection.

It is difficult to justify the sense of applying an identical term to describe completely different textual phenomena, when we consider the radical individualities of manifestations of musicality II and even just musicality I. If, therefore, one would like to insist on studying the musicality of a literary work in order to typify the sphere of musicality II, this is especially for the reason that its manifestations, as unequivocally presenting themselves in the artistic discourse, indirectly argue the formations of the other two planes of musicality and potentially constitute a metatextual signal for their disclosure208. From this point of view, musicality II has, above all, intrinsic relational meaning – thematisation of music in a literary work is very often functionalised in just such a manner, to fulfil at the metatextual level the function of an important commentary, without which the phenomena of both musicality I and musicality III would remain unnoticed.

Musicality III

Situated in the last, least-elaborated problem area of the musicality of a literary work are rhetorical strategies introducing the context of the structure of a musical composition within the scope of a piece of literature209. This level of theoretical-literary reflection among the three distinguished presents, in principle, the greatest degree of complexity, mainly due to the subtle material being ←62 | 63→studied, but also the lack of terminological instruments and as a result of casual interdisciplinary borrowings. The problem of the illegibility of musical filiations is decisive with regards to the visible isolation of the sphere of issues, which Bohdan Pociej in his own characteristic way defines as “latent musicality”210, and about the specific circumstances of analytical-interpretative undertakings. In connection with the non-perception of the phenomena of musicality III certain suspicions concerning their appearance arise particularly for an inexperienced reader211, as Éric Prieto indicates in a specific literary case. Hence as far as indicating elements of the first two levels, musicality I and II, does not cause extreme difficulties, this is compensated for with a sizeable excess of multiple complications when considering the symptoms of musicality III.

When theoretically considering the third aspect of the musicality of a literary work, “latent musicality”, it should be clearly indicated that this is about looking at purely verbal operations in a given work. It is through such operations, however, that the dimension of a musical work is brought into its existence, or through which intersemiotic structural reference is created in an individual way212. Due to the singularity of the realisation formal reference is never clear enough in itself (that is in the field of musicality III), hence at the stage of analysis the search for supplementary argumentation in the sphere of musicality I and musicality II within the text is also provoked. Maria Woźniakiewicz-Dziadosz’s point of view about Iwaszkiewicz’s Opowiadania muzyczne [Musical Short Stories], is that “the plot motivates the musical structure of the work [Mefisto-Walc [Mephisto-Waltz], Czwarta symfonia [Fourth Symphony]]. In three stories: Przyjaciele [Friends], Notre-Dame-la-Grande, Psyche, ‘musicality’ is inscribed in the deep structure of the text, constitutes – broadly speaking – their composition model”213, should be treated in both a narrow (individual works), and a broad context (volume of stories) as an intention to interpret musicality III through the prism ←63 | 64→of musicality II. In turn, the interpretation strategy of Barbara Stelmaszczyk in the case of Gałczyński’s Niobe (“Is an example of a work which, mainly through its construction, and also through rhythm, the sound layer – gains undoubted musicality that stands out in the foreground”214) cannot be understood in any way other than as attempts to locate additional arguments in favour of musicality III in the field of musicality I. In both cases an elementary complication, as can be seen, creates perception of textual signals, which testifies to literary interpretation of musical scheme and which indirectly implies interdisciplinary procedure.

Among all the manifestations of the musicality of a literary work, the unconventionality of artistic activity probably gains the fullest reflection in the open interdisciplinary character of research. The conditions for examining musical entanglements are defined in a specific literary work, with the matter that this is only once, by direct, legible reference (for example a musical quotation), another time in a barely traceable manner through highly ambivalent metatextual impulses. Accepting the interdisciplinary perspective turns out to be indisputable in the case of Stanisław Barańczak’s Podróż zimowa [Winter Journey], and is argued a priori and pre-interpretatively by the shape of a literary work, which irrespective of the research strategy provokes the entrance: “to the highly risky area so-called musicality of literature”215. But already in the case of Paul Celan’s Todesfuge [Death Fugue] or Umberto Saba’s Preludio e Fughe [Prelude and Fugues] the question of discussing the existence of the musical context becomes the subject of theoretical investigations, may appear facultatively at the stage of interpretation, fortified from outside with certain hypotheses. Thus, the fundamental nature of the research changes (and consequently its purpose) depending on whether this musical context is sufficiently exposed internally in the text, or whether it only reveals itself at the time of extra-textual verification. In the last situation, analytical-interpretative activities usually stop at the level of the potentiality of a given text, and in the most marginal circumstances, barely go beyond hypothetical space216. As a model example of hypothetical considerations we can show the interpretive undertaking of Bohdan Pociej, who attempts to read ←64 | 65→Iwaszkiewicz’s Panny z Wilka [The Maids of Wilko] through the prism of musical structure and discern latent “musicality”217 in the construction of the work.

Basic findings concerning musicality III undoubtedly depend on the understanding of the indicated rhetorical strategies, which show, at the time of their recognition, the manner of literary adaptation of elements of a musical work or, in other words, the effects of consciously taken “stylisation-‘transcription’ practice”218. The existence of the structural dimension of a musical work in a literary work comes from the author’s acceptance of more or less sophisticated rhetorical tactics219 and reveals itself through conventional allusiveness220 or – to use Jean-Jacques Nattiez’s formula – through “syntax of allusion”221. This is not about formal transposition of a musical composition within a given literary work, which is impossible to realise, nor about the global transfer of rules of structure222 from music to the terrain of literature. The scope of possibilities to signal intersemiotic (intermedial) references, as is known, is extremely limited on account of its ontological conditioning – there is no direct transition between the material of music and the material of literature, solutions are one-off solutions, individual literary interpretations of a musical scheme.

Of all the problematics of numerous paradigms of “musicality” I am basically most interested in this particular case, defined so far in connection with the musicality of a literary work as musicality III, which for purely methodological reasons will be separated and defined as musical literary text. In the context of earlier discussions, it can be clearly seen that it situates itself unambiguously in the problem area of musicality of a literary work (it occupies a very peripheral position amongst a wide variety of issues); moreover – and above all – that under this name which is not burdened with literary tradition, it presents itself as a question for separate consideration. Finally, very different artistic projects are involved which are difficult to generally classify, but require similar analytical ←65 | 66→procedures. This is because interpretative activities lead first to the perception of the artistic concept of construction (of) construction223, recognition of a rhetorically forced meta-construction, and then to explain how the palimpsest mechanism functions.

139In such a defined perspective, it is impossible to study the universality of the phenomenon “‘musicality’ in general”, as Jerzy Skarbowski postulates in the context of Iwaszkiewicz’s creative work (“Muzyka w poezji Jarosława Iwaszkiewicza,” in: Poezja, 4 (1978): p. 99), or the “category of ‘musicality’” (idem, “Serdeczne związki poezji z muzyką,” in: Poezja, 3 (1980): p. 8).

140The essence of parallelism, i.e. two fields of interdisciplinary meaning, is perfectly reproduced by a concise dictionary definition: “MUSICALITY, the quality of that which is musical; a property of art that drives people towards the art of sounds” (Science de la Musique: Technique, Formes, Instruments, vol. 2, ed. M. Honegger, Paris: Bordas, 1990, p. 640). An interesting matter in the margin is that the term “musicality” has generally not been included in the widely known today and the most appreciated amongst musicologists The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie, London: Macmillan Publishers Limited, 1980.

141As a result, “musicality” functions in relation to literature on the same principles as the term “literariness” transferred to the realm of music. Compare M. Głowiński, “Literackość muzyki – muzyczność literatury,” in: Pogranicza i korespondencje sztuk, “Z dziejów form artystycznych w literaturze polskiej”, vol. 56, ed. T. Cieślikowska, J. Sławiński, Wrocław: Ossolineum, 1980, pp. 65–81.

142Compare W. Brydak, “O muzyczności,” in: Dialog, 1 (1978): p. 86.

143See J. Błoński, “Ut musica poësis?,” in: Twórczość, 9 (1980): p. 111.

144Compare E. Wiegandt, “Problem tzw. muzyczności prozy powieściowej XX wieku,” in: Pogranicza i korespondencje sztuk, “Z dziejów form artystycznych w literaturze polskiej”, vol. 56, ed. T. Cieślikowska, J. Sławiński, Wrocław: Ossolineum, 1980, p. 103.

145D. Wieckowski, La poétique de Mallarmé, Paris: Sedes, 1998, p. 163. Nota bene the question of “musicality”, as indicated by Henri Mitterand, opens up one of the interpretative possibilities of Mallarmé’s works in general. H. Mitterand, “Pour une sémantique textuelle de Mallarmé,” in: Poétique, 120 (1999): p. 405.

146See P. Verlaine, Oeuvres poétiques complètes, Paris: Gallimard, 1992, pp. 171–190 (see P. Verlaine, Songs without Words, trans. D. Revell, Richmond: Omnidawn, 2013).

147M. Głowiński, “Słowo i pieśń (Leśmiana poezja o poezji),” in: Studia o Leśmianie, ed. M. Głowiński, J. Sławiński, Warsaw: PIW, 1971, p. 194.

148K. Jakowska, Powrót autora: Renesans narracji auktorialnej w polskiej powieści międzywojennej, Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1983, pp. 171, 172.

149See R. Barthes, “Le grain de la voix,” in: Musique en jeu, 9 (1972): pp. 57–63 (see R. Barthes, “The Grain of the Voice,” in: idem, Image, Music, Text, trans. S. Heath, London: Fontana Press, 1977, pp. 179–189).

150E. Kushner, “‘Le don du luthier’ et autres fictions canadiennes,” in: Musique du texte et de l’image, ed. J. Perrot, Paris: Centre National de Documentation Pédagogique, 1997, pp. 43–44. See also A. Locatelli, La lyre, la plume et le temps: Figures de musiciens dans le “Bildungsroman”, Tübingen: M. Niemeyer, 1998, p. 292.

151See J.-L. Backès, “La musique comme principe directeur dans la poésie symboliste,” in: Revue de Littérature Comparée, 3 (1987): p. 311. See also idem, Musique et littérature: Essai de poétique comparée, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1994, pp. 193–197.

152As a result, it is equally possible to use the term to characterise the genre specificity of “chanson de geste” (see E. A. Heinemann, L’art métrique de la chanson de geste: Essai sur la musicalité du récit, Genève: Droz, 1993), as well as the type of language in Beaumarchais (see S. Lecarpentier, Le langage dramatique dans la trilogie de Beaumarchais: Efficacité, gaieté, musicalité, Saint-Genouph: Librairie Nizet, 1998).

153In Polish scholarship, Szulc was probably the last to pay attention to the unacceptable multitude of meanings of the term, despite the fact that his criticism of “musicality” took the form of qualitative criticism, relating to ontology, and not quantitative (see T. Szulc, Muzyka w dziele literackim, “Studia z zakresu historii literatury polskiej”, No. 14, Warsaw: Skład Główny w Kasie im. Mianowskiego, 1937, p. 35). The recently appearing negative arguments usually concern ontological differences (see A. Dziadek, “Słuchanie i rytm: Trzy fragmenty większej całości,” in: Opcje, 3 (1997): p. 23; idem, “Rytm i podmiot w ‘Oktostychach’ i ‘Muzyce wieczorem’ Jarosława Iwaszkiewicza,” in: Pamiętnik Literacki, 2 (1999): p. 43).

154M. Tomaszewski, “Muzyka i literatura,” in: Słownik literatury polskiej XIX wieku, ed. J. Bachórz, A. Kowalczykowa, Wrocław–Warsaw–Kraków: Ossolineum, 1991, p. 581.

155See E. Wiegandt, op. cit., pp. 109, 113.

156Compare amongst others R. Wellek, A. Warren, “Euphony, Rhythm, and Meter,” in: eidem, Theory of Literature, New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949, p. 160.

157This is how in Jean-Louis Cupers the idea of “double musicality”, the effect of isolating “basic musicality” (the rhythmicism of prose in general) and “secondary musicality” (musical architectural analogies in prose) undoubtedly look. J.-L. Cupers, “Approches musicales de Charles Dickens: Études comparatives et comparatisme musico-littéraire,” in: Littérature et musique, ed. R. Célis, Bruxelles: Publications des Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, 1982, p. 17. Otherwise, the literature researcher defines the division into “musicality” and “non-musicality” elsewhere as the issue of cacophony. See J.-L. Cupers, Aldous Huxley et la musique: À la manière de Jean-Sébastien, Bruxelles: Publications des Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, 1985, p. 30.

158See S. P. Scher, “How Meaningful is ‘Musical’ in Literary Criticism?,” in: Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, 21 (1972): pp. 53, 55, 56. See also W. Brydak, op. cit., pp. 86–95.

159The term “paradigms of ‘musicality’” (or “paradigms of the term”) refers to single use constructed meanings of “musicality” not only within or on the borderline of various fields of art, but also within the closed problem area, for example literary research.

160“Musicality” is connected in this case, among other things, with the basic characteristics of the musician (see V. Zuckerkandl, Sound and Symbol, vol. 2: Man the Musician, translated from the German N. Guterman, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976, pp. 50–51), with the immanent characteristics of music in general (ibidem, p. 78), and with the nature of musical interpretation (see G. J. Balzano, “Exécution de commandes, commandes d’exécution,” in: La musique et les sciences cognitives, ed. S. McAdams, I. Deliège, Liège–Bruxelles: Pierre Mardaga, 1989, pp. 622, 624).

161An example is Bohdan Pociej’s position, shown in discussion with Witold Lutosławski. See B. Pociej, “O roli słowa, teatralności i tradycji w muzyce mówi Witold Lutosławski,” in: Poezja, 10 (1973): p. 78.

162See L. Polony, Polski kształt sporu o istotę muzyki: Główne tendencje w polskiej myśli muzyczno-estetycznej od Oświecenia po współczesność, Kraków: Akademia Muzyczna, 1991, pp. 28, 144.

163See R. Wood, “Language as Will and Representation: Schopenhauer, Austin, and Musicality,” in: Comparative Literature, 4, Vol. 48 (1996): pp. 302–325.

164Compare J.-L. Cupers, Euterpe et Harpocrate ou le défi littéraire de la musique: Aspects méthodologiques de l’approche musico-littéraire, Bruxelles: Publications des Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, 1988, p. 35.

165M. Głowiński, “Literackość muzyki – muzyczność literatury,” p. 77.

166M. Głowiński, “Literatura a muzyka,” in: Słownik literatury polskiej XX wieku, ed. A. Brodzka, M. Puchalska, M. Semczuk, A. Sobolewska, E. Szary-Matywiecka, Wrocław–Warsaw–Kraków: Ossolineum, 1992, p. 549.

167R. Barthes, “Musica Practica,” in: idem, L’obvie et l’obtus: Essais critiques III, Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1982, p. 231 (see R. Barthes, “Musica Practica,” in: idem, Image, Music, Text, trans. S. Heath, London: Fontana Press, 1977, p. 149).

168See Thomas Stearns Eliot’s commentary about “a ‘musical poem’” and “the music of verse”, and the potential links between literature and music. T. S. Eliot, “The Music of Poetry,” in: idem, On Poetry and Poets, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009, pp. 26, 30 (see T. S. Eliot, The Music of Poetry, Glasgow: Jackson, Son & Company, 1942).

169M. Pagnini, “La musicalità dei ‘Four Quartets’ di T. S. Eliot,” in: Belfagor, 4 (1958): pp. 421–440.

170N. Giraldi Dei Cas, Felisberto Hernández: Musique et littérature, Paris: Indigo et Côté-femmes éditions, 1998, p. 36 (see chapter 2: Les frontières du discours hernandien. La musique dans les titres, l’effet de leur intertextualité, pp. 27–50).

171In fact, its embryonic form is often accentuated indirectly, by a priori limitation of the study area: Czesław Zgorzelski considers the problem in poetry (see Cz. Zgorzelski, “Elementy ‘muzyczności’ w poezji lirycznej,” in: Prace ofiarowane Henrykowi Markiewiczowi, ed. T. Weiss, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1984, pp. 7–23), Ewa Wiegandt – in prose (E. Wiegandt, op. cit., pp. 103–114). This kind of typology of “musicality” can be seen in the dictionary concept of Michał Głowiński, who separates the range of the problem “in the sphere of drama” from the problem of “poetic communication”. See M. Głowiński, “Literatura a muzyka,” p. 549.

172P. Vernois, La dramaturgie poétique de Jean Tardieu, Paris: Klincksieck, 1981, pp. 247–252.

173Ibidem, pp. 241–247.

174See D. Viart, “Jules Romains, l’unanimisme et la simultanéité narrative,” in: Jules Romains et les écritures de la simultanéité, ed. D. Viart, Lille: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 1996, pp. 9–17.

175Distinguishing between three musicalities of a literary work is, in fact, nothing new – in the sense of the problem, Ewa Wiegandt chooses an identical strategy, using a slightly different terminology (for the selected musical planes of a literary work there are three categories in succession – “music in literature”, “music of literature” and “musicality of literature”). See E. Wiegandt, op. cit., p. 104. At the same time, in the terminological sense the closest point of view seems to be Bohdan Pociej, who sketches with the help of a descriptive specification “particular degrees and levels of musicality”. See B. Pociej, “Muzyka w poezji,” in: Ruch Muzyczny, 4 (1993): p. 3.

176Taking into account the circumstance of suggesting structural filiations in the situation of non-existence of analogy, it is possible to indicate the parallel between “formal referentiality” and the category of “formal mimetism” in Michał Głowiński (“O powieści w pierwszej osobie,” in: idem, Gry powieściowe: Szkice z teorii i historii form narracyjnych, Warsaw: PWN, 1973, pp. 63–65). Compare E. Wiegandt, op. cit., pp. 106–107, 109. Compare also S. Dąbrowski, “‘Muzyka w literaturze’: (Próba przeglądu zagadnień),” in: Poezja, 3 (1980): p. 30.


ISBN (Book)
Open Access
Publication date
2019 (May)
literature music music in literature musicality intertextuality Comparative Literature
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 240 pp., 4 graphs, 8 scores

Biographical notes

Andrzej Hejmej (Author)

Andrzej Hejmej is Professor at the Faculty of Polish Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. His recent publications focus on comparative literature and cultural studies and he authored numerous papers on comparative literature, literary theory and modern Polish literature.


Title: Musicality of a Literary Work