Raymond MONELLE: "Musical uniqueness as a function of the text" (5/17)


Let us examine, therefore, these two features: artistic realism and authorial personality. In this short article, our examination will be confined to the art of the nineteenth century, centring on literary studies of the novel (which was the definitive nineteenth-century form, according to Bakhtin: he invokes "novelness", romannost, as the dominant cognitive style of the period), and Romantic instrumental music. As Lord David Cecil implied in the passages quoted earlier, the novelist was subject to a need to develop, to carry forward, to devise processes of change, progress and dénouement. These processes are structural; they obey conventions of plot and action. The illusion of truth -- the verisimilitude -- of the novel does not lie in these aspects. On the contrary, novelists laced other kinds of passage into the structure, passages of evocation in which they portrayed a "real" world into which the reader was drawn. According to a number of literary critics (notably Tzvetan Todorov and Gillian Beer, as well as Riffaterre) the two aspects of the novel were distinguished by changes of style, by different temporalities and by a different contract between writer and reader. The aspect of plot or action was governed by some outside, rational force; in Thomas Hardy, according to Beer (1983), this was the force of Darwinian evolution, whereas in Charles Dickens, according to another writer, Graham Daldry (1987), it was the force of law and order. These were rational forces, routine, mechanical, tragic. However, the passages of plot or structure embraced others in which "real life" was evoked. In these passages the artist expressed her irreplicable individuality, and the craggy and irrational particularity of the real world was captured (though for Riffaterre, as I have explained, the real world was an internal world of genre). Within the first kind of passage, the artist portrayed the condition of all persons, subject to change, death, civil society. Within the second kind she evoked particularity, intimacy, specialness.
It is my contention that the same rhythm of evocation and structure obtained in music, and that the special quality of uniqueness in nineteenth-century music inhered in the passages of evocation, leaving the passages of structure to the routines of technique. However, since music is not so obviously representational, we must turn to the temporal aspect of literary styles. According to Todorov, the time of structure (what he calls "narrative") is serial, made up of separate events which succeed each other, giving an image of progression. Evocation (he calls it "description"), on the other hand, takes place in continuous time, time that is not divided up by events.
Description and narrative both presuppose temporality, but the temporality differs in kind. The initial description was situated in time, to be sure, but in an ongoing, continuous time frame, whereas the changes that characterize narrative slice time up into discontinuous units: duration-time as opposed to event-time (Todorov: 1990, 28).

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AS/SA Nº4, Article 4 : Page 5 / 17

© 1997 by AS/SA

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