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Musicality of a Literary Work


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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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...

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