19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, No 1 (2005)

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Shared Concerns: Thoughts on British Literature and British Music in the Long Nineteenth Century

Michael Allis

Abstract


As part of the growth of interdisciplinary studies, a number of recent writings have focused upon links between music and literature in the long nineteenth century. In addition to the general significance of music in the work of individual authors and poets, scholars have highlighted particular imagery used in the literary representation of music (charting its effect on narrative and characterisation), and explored the literary reception of several composers. Within this growing body of literature, references to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British music are significant by their absence. This article therefore aims to redress the balance by suggesting that there are connections between British music and literature in this period, and that these connections are significant. A number of approaches are discussed to highlight their potential, including composer-author affinities, collaborations, generic parallels, hidden narratives, and the suggestion that musical settings of texts can represent critical ‘readings' of those texts. A range of examples (with musical illustrations and sound clips) suggest how this particular interdisciplinary focus can lead to the reassessment of individual musical and literary works, and help to explore wider cultural connections within the Victorian and Edwardian era.

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