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In: Poetica
In: Poetica
Author: Werner Wolf

Abstract

The present essay is a contribution to film (music) studies, showing the ambivalences postmodernist Hollywood films can produce, moreover a contribution to metalepsis research and intermediality studies. The film under discussion, The Truman Show (u.s.a., ), is a highly ambivalent film: it combines traditional Hollywood romance with a non-traditional critique of one of the most important tendencies of commercial (Hollywood) films, namely the creation of such a convincing illusion of reality that the resulting ‘hyper-reality’ (as in ‘reality shows’) begins to blur the boundaries between life and fiction. In The Truman Show, this ambivalence is mainly transmitted by the words and images of the filmic narrative. Yet film music also participates in the ambivalence owing to a remarkable combination of traditional and non-traditional uses. Among the former, the well-known functions of music as emotion-enhancer and bridge between frames play a role. Among the latter category, the (more or less conspicuous) absence of film music in certain scenes is noteworthy, moreover a phenomenon which has not yet found due attention in research: the existence of what in ‘absolute’ instrumental music would be impossible but which the plurimedial combination of music, narrative and the moving image in the sound film can produce, namely musical metalepsis. This is film music that paradoxically transgresses the boundaries of filmic levels both in a top-down and a bottom-up direction. Owing to the lack of attention usually paid to film music in the process of reception (a lack of awareness which, in The Truman Show, is exploited for a thematic purpose), musical metalepsis is not as overt and spectacular as ‘ontological’ metalepses would be in the fields of the verbal and visual channels. Yet it nevertheless enhances a major critical concern of The Truman Show, namely the blurring of ontological levels. In doing so, it participates in the film’s fundamental ambivalence in a particularly noteworthy way: on the one hand, if perceived from a rational and ‘expert’ perspective, musical metalepsis contributes to the implied critique of the delusions of film-based hyper-reality; on the other hand its very covertness illustrates how easily most (‘amateur’) viewers tend to overlook certain filmic devices for the sake of an entertaining emotional immersion in filmic fake-reality and ultimately even hyper-reality.

In: Music, Narrative and the Moving Image
In: Immersion and Distance
In: Immersion and Distance
Author: Werner Wolf
This volume is a pioneering study in the theory and history of the imitation of music in fiction and constitutes an important contribution to current intermediality research.
Starting with a comparison of basic similarities and differences between literature and music, the study goes on to provide outlines of a general theory of intermediality and its fundamental forms, in which a more specialized theory of the musicalization of (narrative) literature based on contemporary narratology and a typology of the forms of musico-literary intermediality are embedded. It also addresses the question of how to recognize a musicalized fiction when reading one and why Sterne's Tristram Shandy, contrary to what has been previously said, is not to be regarded as a musicalized fiction.
In its historical part, the study explores forms and functions of experiments with the musicalization of fiction in English literature. After a survey of the major preconditions for musicalization - the increasing appreciation of music in 18th and 19th-century aesthetics and its main causes - exemplary fictional texts from romanticism to postmodernism are analyzed. Authors interpreted are De Quincey, Joyce, Woolf, A. Huxley, Beckett, Burgess and Josipovici. Whilst the limitations of a transposition of music into fiction remain apparent, experiments in this field yield valuable insights into mainly a-mimetic and formalist aesthetic tendencies in the development of more recent fiction as a whole and also show to what extent traditional conceptions of music continue to influence the use of this medium in literature.
The volume is of relevance for students and scholars of English, comparative and general literature as well as for readers who take an interest in intermediality or interart research.
Author: Werner Wolf

Abstract

This essay is a contribution to a new (or renewed) focus of interest observable in various disciplines, including – over the last few years – classical philology: an interest in the historical dimension of an important reception effect which representations in literature and many other media can elicit, namely ‘aesthetic illusion’ (frequently also termed differently, e.g., ‘immersion’). Aesthetic illusion is particularly difficult to ascertain for remote periods and cultures, for which empirical methods are inapplicable and where reception testimonies are scarce. However, there is indirect evidence in aesthetic theory, in rhetoric, and above all in certain artefacts and literary texts. After a clarification of the concept and term ‘aesthetic illusion’ and of the cultural-historical preconditions for its emergence, this essay discusses some evidence for the existence of aesthetic illusion in ancient ‘theory’ and literary practice (in Homer, Sophocles, and Heliodorus), including instances of a playful use of this phenomenon (in Pseudo-Homer and Aristophanes). All of this indicates that aesthetic illusion is not a recent phenomenon of the past few centuries but can be traced back to ancient cultures.

In: Taking Stock – Twenty-Five Years of Comparative Literary Research
In: Silence and Absence in Literature and Music
Author: Werner Wolf

Abstract

The present essay is a contribution to film (music) studies, showing the ambivalences postmodernist Hollywood films can produce, moreover a contribution to metalepsis research and intermediality studies. The film under discussion, The Truman Show (u.s.a., ), is a highly ambivalent film: it combines traditional Hollywood romance with a non-traditional critique of one of the most important tendencies of commercial (Hollywood) films, namely the creation of such a convincing illusion of reality that the resulting ‘hyper-reality’ (as in ‘reality shows’) begins to blur the boundaries between life and fiction. In The Truman Show, this ambivalence is mainly transmitted by the words and images of the filmic narrative. Yet film music also participates in the ambivalence owing to a remarkable combination of traditional and non-traditional uses. Among the former, the well-known functions of music as emotion-enhancer and bridge between frames play a role. Among the latter category, the (more or less conspicuous) absence of film music in certain scenes is noteworthy, moreover a phenomenon which has not yet found due attention in research: the existence of what in ‘absolute’ instrumental music would be impossible but which the plurimedial combination of music, narrative and the moving image in the sound film can produce, namely musical metalepsis. This is film music that paradoxically transgresses the boundaries of filmic levels both in a top-down and a bottom-up direction. Owing to the lack of attention usually paid to film music in the process of reception (a lack of awareness which, in The Truman Show, is exploited for a thematic purpose), musical metalepsis is not as overt and spectacular as ‘ontological’ metalepses would be in the fields of the verbal and visual channels. Yet it nevertheless enhances a major critical concern of The Truman Show, namely the blurring of ontological levels. In doing so, it participates in the film’s fundamental ambivalence in a particularly noteworthy way: on the one hand, if perceived from a rational and ‘expert’ perspective, musical metalepsis contributes to the implied critique of the delusions of film-based hyper-reality; on the other hand its very covertness illustrates how easily most (‘amateur’) viewers tend to overlook certain filmic devices for the sake of an entertaining emotional immersion in filmic fake-reality and ultimately even hyper-reality.

In: Music, Narrative and the Moving Image