8 Can Stories Be Read as Music? Possibilities and Limitations of Applying Musical Metaphors to Fiction [1992]

in Selected Essays on Intermediality by Werner Wolf (1992–2014)
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[This first essay of the author’s explorations of intermedial relations between literature and music (which was expanded and revised in his book The Musicalization of Fiction, 1999) discusses the metaphor, derived from Huxley’s novel, Point Counter Point, of a ‘musicalization of fiction’ and comes to a balanced result: while fiction can never really turn into music, the metaphor may in some cases nevertheless be justified. This is the case where, in certain short stories and novels, it fulfils the heuristic function of pointing to a form of intermedial reference to music which imitates musical sound effects and/or structures as far as possible in the medium of (printed) language. The essay offers some criteria for a justified use of the metaphor and tests them in two contrastive examples: Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, where the term ‘musicalized fiction’ is inappropriate, and the Sirens chapter of Joyce’s Ulysses, where the metaphor is more meaningful.]


Selected Essays on Intermediality by Werner Wolf (1992–2014)

Theory and Typology, Literature-Music Relations, Transmedial Narratology, Miscellaneous Transmedial Phenomena

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