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Musicality of a Literary Work

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Andrzej Hejmej

This book represents an attempt to capture different links between modern literature and music. The author examines strict intertextual correlations, the phenomena of musicality and musicality of literary works, the musical structure in literature, so-called musical literary texts. He focuses on the novel Le Cœur absolu by Philippe Sollers, the poem Todesfuge by Paul Celan, the Preludio e Fughe by Umberto Saba and the drama Judasz z Kariothu [Judas Iscariot] by Karol Hubert Rostworowski. The analysis also includes Stanisław Barańczak’s cycle of poems Podróż zimowa: Wiersze do muzyki Franza Schuberta [Winter Journey: Poems to the Music of Franz Schubert] and a fragment of Scène from Hérodiade by Stéphane Mallarmé in Paul Hindemith’s composition «Hérodiade» de Stéphane Mallarmé.

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From the author

From the author

The book Musicality of a Literary Work, emerging from the traditions of Polish historical and literary theory research on the relationships of literature and music (formed undoubtedly in the twentieth century under the pressure of Tadeusz Szulc’s findings) and at the same time from the traditions of Western European studies in the field of so-called interdisciplinary comparative literature, was created as a doctoral thesis in the second half of the nineteen nineties. In 1994, when I was working on the first draft, publisher Wydawnictwa a5 released a volume of poetry by Stanisław Barańczak Podróż zimowa: Wiersze do muzyki Franza Schuberta [Winter Journey: Poems to Franz Schubert’s music]. For me, this excellent collection of poetic “contrafactum” posed the most important interpretative challenge. My interest in the latest literature and its musical implications ultimately led to my attempts at interpreting various works: Barańczak’s “contrafacta”, poetic fugues from Paul Celan and Umberto Saba, forms of narrative thematisation of music by Philippe Sollers, Karol Hubert Rostworowski’s theatrical experiments with music and the unusual “musicalisation” of Mallarmé’s text by Paul Hindemith.

In this work I have summarised the results of research conducted at the Jagiellonian University, as well as in two French centres of comparative literature studies: at the Sorbonne and at the Université de Provence. The book was mainly written in France (in Paris and in Aix-en-Provence), and so it is easy to see in it basic research inspirations from French comparative literature, especially the proposals of comparatists such as Jean-Louis Backès, Francis Claudon, Pierre Brunel and Aude Locatelli. Using, amongst others, their experience, I take up the issue of the interdependence of modern literature and music, I deal with “musical literary texts”, more precisely the various manifestations of transposition and intertextual references, as well as the disputed phenomena of musicality and the “musicality of a literary work”. Some threads are not, for obvious reasons, closed in Musicality of a Literary Work, many of the indicated issues I further develop in the book Music in Literature: Perspectives of Interdisciplinary Comparative Literature (“Polish Studies – Transdisciplinary Perspectives”, Frankfurt am Main 2014; published in Polish: “Horyzonty Nowoczesności”, Kraków 2008, 2012), in the next attempt to capture the relations of literature with music, situated in light of the latest proposals of the comparatists and theorists of intertextuality and intermediality.

At the time of publishing the first two editions of Musicality of a Literary Work (Wydawnictwo Funna, 2001; Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego, 2002) the number of works devoted to the relationship between literature and music in Polish literary criticism was relatively small; already the debates that took place in the first decades of the twentieth century, and the invaluable musical meetings in Baranów in the nineteen seventies, which were attended by prominent literary scholars (J. Błoński, M. Głowiński, M. Podraza-Kwiatkowska), amongst others, had been partly forgotten. The third edition of the book appeared in the year 2012 in quite different realities: in the last two decades, I note with great satisfaction, a number of valuable literary criticism and comparative literature studies have been made in Poland; indeed it is possible in reality to speak of the existence of a small successively complementary library of musical-literary studies. Thanks to the publishing initiative of the Fundacja na Rzecz Nauki Polskiej, it was possible for me to once again join the group of authors who in breaking Szulc’s optic search for new ways of explaining the filiations of literature and music, amongst other things in the perspective of music-literary research and modern, intermedial comparative studies.

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On this occasion, despite the passing of years, I would like to express my unending gratitude to, and thank, the first Readers of this book: first and foremost Professor Stanisław Balbus, my supervisor, and also reviewers of my thesis: Professor Michał Głowiński and Professor Leszek Polony. I thank all of you without whose kindness and selfless help this work could not take its present form. Amongst those people are Professor Mieczysław Tomaszewski, Professor Piotr Tylus, Dr Antoni Bartosz, Professor Lucylla Pszczołowska, Professor Rémi Brague, Professor Francis Claudon, Professor Micheline de Combarieu du Grès, Professor Aude Locatelli and many literary scholars of the Cracow milieu. Fundacja na Rzecz Nauki Polskiej I thank for the earlier opportunity to publish a book in the series “Monografie FNP”. For the opportunity to publish this book in translation I thank the National Programme for the Development of the Humanities.

Andrzej Hejmej