Literature with Other Arts
Edited By Haun Saussy and Gerald Gillespie
Speaking of and through the Arts in Fiction after Romanticism
Gerald E.P. GILLESPIE
I shall invoke a few examples to illustrate how key modern novelists, such as Marcel Proust and Thomas Mann, as one of their many narrative devices, deployed a high-level vocabulary consisting of references to complex works of arts, actual or fictive. On the surface these references function like hypotextual words; resembling titles full of promise, they can open up as hypertexts in their own right, and therein resides their power to carry cultural forces and meaning. But, first, permit me the most rudimentary of reminders by way of a preface: I beg the license of skipping well past the Renaissance era in which influential critics like Pietro Bembo (1470–1547) and Giorgio Vasari (1511–74) elevated select early modern writers and artists to special stature as interpreters of matters natural and spiritual; past the proliferation of academies in Italy and later in centralized nation states like France and England to foster and interpret important works, and to harness the prestige which the arts could bestow. That the best artists came to be seen both as exponents of the cultural prowess of various modern peoples and as channels of truth more broadly is one of the crucial developments firmly in place in Europe and the New World on the threshold of the nineteenth century.
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