Muddling words and music : intermediality and Anders-streben in literary modernism
Joshua J. Tacke
May 13, 2015
Department or Program
This paper uses the concept of Anders-streben, or "other-striving" to explore the intermedial relations between music and language in literary modernism: how literary artists engage with, reject, or express ambivalence towards the musical "other." The introduction examines the works of E. M. Forster, Joseph Conrad, Katherine Mansfield, and Wallace Stevens, delineating two different ways in which literary modernists interpret the discourse on music handed down to them by German Romanticism. The first chapter focuses on Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music in addition to his other early writings, and finds in his Apollonian-Dionysian duality a model for a productive interaction between music and language. The second chapter positions James Joyce’s Ulysses in relation to the music of Richard Wagner, tracing the resemblances and differences between their respective modes of musical expressionism, before concluding with a meditation on Joyce’s use of noise in relation to the work of John Cage. The third chapter is comprised of a reading of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and details his refusal to engage with both high and low music, before demonstrating how his text’s melancholia is a function of Eliot’s attitude towards the musical "other." Joyce’s engagement with popular music is subsequently contrasted with Eliot, and positioned in relation to the tradition of Anders-streben which stretches back from Nietzsche to Wagner. The thesis concludes with an analysis of Louis Armstrong, arguing that he is both a literary and a musical modernist.