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Dr Mi Zhou
20 October, 2010e: Reading E.M. Forster Musically (Univeristy of Cambridge, 2009)

Exploiting a confluence of disciplinary interests between musicology and literary criticism, this study offers readings of Howards End, A Room with a View and A Passage to India which focus on their musical elements. I argue that the musical works, episodes and events depicted by Forster can be understood as moments of intermedial dialogue which situate the novels in a broader cultural and aesthetic context.

Forster’s novels will be read through bifocal methodological lenses: musicology paired with literary criticism. Starting with a musical moment described in the novel, first I sketch out the historical and cultural contexts around the music work or event, and then I offer readings of the novel in a second chapter that is informed by its predecessor. The historical account I offer will not describe a seamless causal chain, or a continuous sequence of events. Instead, I hope to spotlight moments in fields that might – at first – seem somewhat removed (in thematic, geographic or temporal terms) from the novel, but which can nevertheless offer fresh approaches to a historically grounded critique of fiction.

During the course of six chapters, there is a deliberate shift: I begin with the assumption that music is a communicative action and has communicable meanings, and end with a reading of music and sound that takes a turn against hermeneutics. By foregrounding the presence of music, I intend to recover a sense of immediacy that can be lost in the networks of meaning. Through a consideration of Forster’s notions of rhythm and voice in fiction, I tentatively sketch out the possibility of a ‘centrifugal criticism’ a practice that listens as well as reads. But more importantly, my study intends to show that music and literature are each other’s ‘thick descriptions’, and recover the richness of musical referents in literature.

This page last modified 26 September, 2012 by UCL Mellon Admin]

Book cover: Muamma

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imag: book cover, Federica  Mazzara

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