Writing absolute music: modernity's linguistic symphony Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Hay, Shelley L.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • Writing Absolute Music: Modernity's Linguistic Symphony explores one facet of the relationship between music and language in 19th- and 20th-century German literature and philosophy. By examining the vital role that the idea of absolute music has played in works by thinkers and authors such as Novalis, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Hermann Hesse, I argue that the somewhat counterintuitive phenomenon of writing about music in order to overcome problems associated with language originates in early German Romanticism and continues to influence German authors throughout the first half of the 20th century. Focusing in large part on Hesse's masterpiece, Das Glasperlenspiel, I establish that authors who seek to overcome language's inherent limitations and approach a transcendental reality by emulating musical structures in their novels and short stories ultimately fail to achieve their fundamental goal. I demonstrate that Hesse is the last great heir to this Romantic legacy and that the failure of Das Glasperlenspiel to access an absolute through words explains the shift in German literature around 1950 away from the Romantic ideal of turning language into music toward a less optimistic, more humble depiction of music's role within works of German literature.
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  • Koelb, Clayton
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