This volume explores the role of music as a source of inspiration and provocation for modernist writers. In its consideration of modernist literature within a broad political, postcolonial, and internationalist context, this book is an important intervention in the growing field of Words and Music studies. It expands the existing critical debate to include lesser-known writers alongside Joyce, Woolf, and Beckett, a wide-ranging definition of modernism, and the influence of contemporary music on modernist writers. From the rhythm of Tagore’s poetry to the influence of jazz improvisation, the tonality of traditional Irish music to the operas of Wagner, these essays reframe our sense of how music inspired Literary Modernism. Exploring the points at which the art forms of music and literature collide, repel, and combine, contributors draw on their deep musical knowledge to produce close readings of prose, poetry, and drama, confronting the concept of what makes writing "musical." In doing so, they uncover commonalities: modernist writers pursue simultaneity and polyphony, evolve the leitmotif for literary purposes, and adapt the formal innovations of twentieth-century music. The essays explore whether it is possible for literature to achieve that unity of form and subject which music enjoys, and whether literary texts can resist paraphrase, can be simply themselves. This book demonstrates how attention to the role of music in text in turn illuminates the manner in which we read literature.

chapter |16 pages


chapter 1|31 pages

Woolf Rewriting Wagner

The Waves and Der Ring des Nibelungen

chapter 2|16 pages

“That’s the Music of the Future”

Joyce, Modernism, and the “Old Irish Tonality”

chapter 3|14 pages

The Ring, The Waves, and the Wake

Eternal Recurrence in Wagner, Woolf, and Joyce

chapter 4|17 pages

Musicality in Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End

Towards Modernity

chapter 5|15 pages

The (R)Evolution of Olive Moore

Fugue as Bridge to a New Feminist Awakening

chapter 6|16 pages

A Strict Arrangement

Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus , and the Kretzschmar Lectures

chapter 7|16 pages

Sounding Bodies

Eroticized Music-Making in Proust’s À la Recherche

chapter 9|19 pages

Words for Music Perhaps

W. B. Yeats, Music, and Meaninglessness

chapter 10|14 pages

“The Way to Learn the Music of Verse Is to Listen to It”

Ezra Pound’s the Pisan Cantos and the “Sequence of the Musical Phrase”

chapter 11|15 pages

Imagism’s Musical Sympathies

Amy Lowell and Claude Debussy

chapter 13|17 pages

The Sudden Thing of Being No One

Robert Creeley’s Rhythm Changes

chapter 14|16 pages

“With all that Tutti and Continuo”

Musicality and Temporality in Djuna Barnes’s The Antiphon

chapter 15|16 pages

“The Blues Always Been Here”

African American Music and Black Modernism in August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom