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Series:

Sandrine Lascaux and Claire Bowen (trans.)

Abstract Herrumbrosas lanzas (1983–1986), Juan Benet’s major novel of the Spanish Civil War, is an epic account of war set in the fictional area of Región which becomes briefly the focus of attention for two opposing military commands. The novel, intended by Benet as a picture of the war, is characterized by a descriptive hypertrophy which this chapter analyses as part of the visual and plastic dimension of the text. The different types of description and images, and the reflexive pictorialism of Herrumbrosas lanzas, are informed by Benet’s conception of the “theatre of war” as a place governed by a poetics of simulacrum where military actions unfold in artificial décors, and which cannot resist the corrosive effects of reality. The narrative thus progressively deconstructs the appearances and values of war until the theatre of war, in the literal and metaphorical sense, is destroyed and the whole representation dissolves into nothingness.

Series:

Werner Wolf

Abstract

‘Intermediality’ has become a fashionable centre of interest in today’s cultural and literary criticism. While ‘interart studies’ – the traditional domain of intermedial research – have tended, as a branch of ‘Comparative Arts’ or ‘Comparative Literature’ separate from the national philologies, to deal with all sorts of contacts between literature and such ‘high’ arts as music or painting, this essay argues in favour of a literature-centred investigation of contacts between verbal art and works of other media regardless of their status as high art and above all for a (re-)integration of such investigations into traditional national philologies. Presenting a short survey of some intermedial contacts occurring in the history of English fiction and taking Virginia Woolf’s “The String Quartet” as a main example of how another medium can shape fiction, the essay also shows that the concept of intermediality does not necessarily divert attention from the genuine concerns of ‘Literaturwissenschaft’, as conservative scholars might fear, but on the contrary is a valid tool for the elucidation of important theoretical and historical aspects of literature.

Series:

Werner Wolf

Abstract

Owing to the emergence, over the past few centuries, of ‘aesthetic’ art, the motivations for, and functions of, individual works of art in Western culture are commonly no longer defined by specific, pragmatic contexts or situations. In some cases the work of art itself compensates for its pragmatic uncertainty by means of meta-aesthetic or metatextual elements. However, in music only forms which involve text, such as songs and song cycles, can easily do so. This essay shows that in this respect Schubert’s Die Winterreise is an especially interesting example, as the concluding “Der Leiermann” does not only motivate the text of Müller’s poem cycle metapoetically at its very end but also appears to explain the fact that in Schubert’s Die Winterreise a singer is accompanied by a musician. Thus the implied answer ‘yes’ to the final question in “Der Leiermann” cited in the title of this essay has an intermedial relevance, for on a meta-level this self-reflexive question refers both to the text of the song cycle and to the second medium present in Schubert’s work: music. The intermedial metatextuality of the last song also opens up a possibility of reading Die Winterreise on a fictional level as a ‘duodrama’ of wanderer and hurdy-gurdy man and at the same time creates a special, cyclical unity: by retrospectively suggesting a fictional origin of the performance of singer and piano player, the last song reveals the self-begetting structure of Die Winterreise and invites a re-reading of the entire cycle as a re-enactment staged by both wanderer and hurdy-gurdy player. 


Series:

Werner Wolf

Abstract

In Beckett’s œuvre music plays an important role, which is underlined in some of his works by the fact that music and language here form plurimedial combinations. Among these works, Words and Music (1962) is unique in being the first radio play to stage music – together with words – as an audible dramatic character in its own right. This allegorical play has repeatedly been interpreted, notably with an emphasis on its intertextual and biographical references or with the aim of elucidating individual obscurities. This essay concentrates on some more general issues, in particular on the forms and functions of the interrelation between words and music as well as on the metamedial implications of their representation, as seen against the background of both traditional views of these media and Beckett’s aesthetics. Surprisingly, in Words and Music the negativity which otherwise pervades Beckett’s œuvre seems, at least temporarily, to be suspended. This happens when Words joins Music in song and when these characters thus appear to become what their master, an everyman figure, wants them to be: his “comforts”. The essay includes a brief discussion of a production of the play with music by Morton Feldman and explores to what extent the apparently successful cooperation of the two media under the direction of music – as well as the tendency to musicalize verbal language observable in Words and Music as in many of Beckett’s works – can really be regarded as forming one of the rare positive elements in the bleak landscape of the Beckett universe. 


Series:

Werner Wolf

Abstract

[‘Metaization’ is a transmedial phenomenon whose occurrence in media such as fiction, drama or film is by now well-known, but appears, at first glance, not to apply to (instrumental) music. The present essay shows that this is an erroneous impression: there is such a thing as ‘metamusic’. After terminological clarifications (e. g. concerning the difference between merely formal self-reference and ‘metareference’ as a hypernym for all media-specific variants of metaization and also concerning some general sub-forms of metareference), the existence of musical metareference is demonstrated by means of a case study: J.S. Bach’s [?] “Kleines Harmonisches Labyrinth” BWV 591. It is shown that this composition clearly draws the listener’s attention to an aspect of the employed medial system, namely musical modulations, and thus fulfills the basic condition of metareference. Further examples from various epochs (including Friedrich Gulda’s “Concerto for Myself”) corroborate the existence of metamusic and lead to an overview of the possible, and impossible, variants of metareference in instrumental music. The essay concludes with a survey of as yet neglected areas in the field of metareference and gives perspectives for future research.] 


Series:

Werner Wolf

Abstract

One of the most intriguing – as well as neglected – areas of musical self-reference is instrumental ‘metamusic’: that is, music which, similar to, for example, metafiction, metapainting or metafilm, draws attention to its status as an artefact and/or (acoustic) medium. The neglect of this aspect in research is easy to understand, for instrumental music has well-known difficulties not only with (hetero-)reference but also, and a fortiori,with explicit metareference, since it is unable to make overtly metareferential statements. Yet, this does not necessarily entail that instrumental music cannot at least covertly foreground its status as music and thus testify to a potential for implicit metareference.


In the first part of this essay, the concept of ‘metareference’ as a special case of ‘self-reference’ is explained, and its principal forms (which are derived from metafiction) are presented. The main part opens with general reflections on the potential, but also the limits, of instrumental music to produce these forms and, where applicable, to mark metareference. This is followed by a discussion of forms and functions of ‘metamusic’ in some examples, in particular Mozart’s sextet, Ein musikalischer Spaß (K 522).


The overall aim of this contribution is to highlight yet another aspect under which (instrumental) music can be shown to possess transmedial features which have traditionally been attributed to other media. The transmedial perspective on ‘words and music’ adopted in this essay reveals that, in spite of appearances and obvious restrictions, music can in fact be aligned with other media, and in particular with verbal media, even in the field of metareference.