‘Attending to the Auditory: Literature and Music’

Delia da Sousa CorreaSeminar Room 2

Chair: Dr Delia da Sousa Correa, Senior Lecturer in English, Open University

This proposal comes in response to the listing of ‘literature, language, creativity and music’ among the topics invited by the organisers of ESF2 and anticipated in the provisional listing of a panel on ‘Music as Literature, Literature as Music’ on the conference website. The panel brings together speakers with interdisciplinary interests in literature and music working in different periods. All three have current research projects and prior publications in the field of literature and music studies. Their topics are planned so as to address the overarching theme of the conference, proposing shared future research directions for literature and music. Where possible, speakers will also address the pedagogical value or potential of their work. Jointly, they explore possibilities for innovative conjunctions of reading and listening experience and offer analysis of the long-standing figurative potency of music as an absent ideal for writing.

Ewan Jones will explore a series of nineteenth-century anticipations of the concept of entrainment, which concerns the tendency for individual organisms to synchronise rhythms with external stimuli. Such rhythmical porosity allowed thinkers such as George Henry Lewes, George Eliot and Herbert Spencer to investigate (and challenge) the distinctions between human and nonhuman life; to conceive of societies as complex dynamical systems; and to pose anew the question of the development of artistic modes. By reading Eliot’s still-overlooked verse tragedy The Spanish Gypsy (1878), this paper will demonstrate how poetry is able not merely to dramatise such questions, but to actuate them. It will conclude with a discussion of how the concept of entrainment might contribute not only to research agendas, but also to pedagogical method.

Dr Ewan Jones, Lecturer in Nineteenth Century Literature, University of Cambridge

Adrian Paterson will address ‘Forgotten futures in C20th words and music’. His paper will explore the fractious, argumentative, incestuous but extraordinarily productive relationship between literature and music, when in the mid-twentieth century the connection underwent (another) revolution as poetry’s form exploded and microphone technology renewed attention to the sounds of the voice. It will do so by re-examining some forgotten futures: pioneering vortexes of potential connection in avant-garde American music, poetry, and drama that flowered and faded in copyright claims and performance limitations. By examining moments such as Ezra Pound’s direct use of musical notation in The Cantos (1948), composer Harry Partch’s ‘corporeal’ adaptation of W.B. Yeats’s King Oedipus (1952), using speech patterns and microtones, and Frank O’Hara’s off-beat Noh play Try! Try! (1951), at The Poet’s Theatre, it will question the exclusion of hybrid and experimental forms in the spaces between the arts, and find that attending to historical ideas with new focus and technology can re-animate our fixed understandings of past, present, and future.

Dr Adrian Paterson, Lecturer in English, the National University of Ireland, Galway

Christin Hoene will propose that music offers a possibly unique potential for exploring and expressing identities in postcolonial literature. Her talk will chart a theoretical map connecting postcolonial studies and word and music studies along routes of identity, place, performance, and aesthetics. Representation is at the heart of this theory of music in postcolonial literature. To substantiate this, this paper will analyse two novels where music plays a crucial role for the development of character and plot, Amit Chaudhuri’s Afternoon Raag (1993) and Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album (1995). Given the nature of both music and text, music is not represented as either sound or notation; the whole exercise of writing music into literature is thereby an act of displacement and of transgression, where the text displaces the music and the music transgresses the text. The tension thus created between presence and absence opens up creative spaces within the text for the representation of postcolonial identities that traditionally are defined by their absence from written history.

Dr Christin Hoene, Lecturer in Postcolonial Literature, NYU London

Fri 11:00 am - 12:15 pm