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Narrative Interludes

Narrative Interludes: Musical Tableaux in Eighteenth-Century French Texts

  • Book Info
    Narrative Interludes
    Book Description:

    French authors in the eighteenth century traditionally used music to enhance literary love scenes. Jean-Jacques Rousseau considerably expanded contemporary notions of music?s expressive power, yet distinguished between the capacity of different nations and sexes to wield it. Rousseau?s controversial statements led his readers to interrogate the relationship between music, meaning, and morality. They depicted their resistance to his claims in musical tableaux, or musical performances staged for a beholder inscribed within the text. Tili Boon Cuillé?sNarrative Interludeschronicles the emergence of the musical tableau in French literature.

    Spanning the latter half of the eighteenth century, Cuillé brings the cultural discourse on music and musicians to bear on the works of Diderot, Cazotte, Beaumarchais, Charrière, Cottin, Krüdener, and Staël. She turns attention from the representation of music to its moral repercussions, from aesthetic innovation to social resistance, and from national to gender politics. Juxtaposing pre-eminent and popular writers, Cuillé reads their fictional works in light of their treatises on art and society, exploring the significance of musical tableaux that have previously fallen outside the scope of literary analysis but that revolutionized the form and function of music in the text.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7752-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xxii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-2)
  6. Introduction: Tableau Theory
    (pp. 3-22)

    The literature of the eighteenth century is redolent with musical scenes. I use the word ‘scenes’ intentionally, for I distinguish between conventional literary depictions of music in novels and the ‘tableaux’ that eventually upstaged them. Musical scenes representative of the French literary tradition occur in such texts as Riccoboni’sLe Marquis de Cressy, in which the young heroine recounts how her music teacher sought to take advantage of her during her harpsichord lessons, using the music itself, as well as the unusual intimacy the lessons afforded, to persuade her of his undying affection. Once the heroine receives incontrovertible proof of...


    • 1 Diderot and Musical Mimesis
      (pp. 25-55)

      Critical analyses of theQuerelle des Bouffonstend to lump Denis Diderot somewhat unceremoniously with the proponents of Italian music, based in part upon the side of the opera house on which he chose to sit.¹ Though Diderot sat with his fellow philosophes in thecoin de la reine- the side of the Parisian Opera associated with the proponents of Italian music and the foreign queen - his early aesthetic writings indicate that he did not unilaterally endorse the criticism of the French language that Rousseau levied in hisLettre sur la musique frangaise. In a youthful sally taken...

    • 2 Cazote And Reader Re-creation
      (pp. 56-88)

      Jacques Gazette’s sympathies lay, unequivocally, with thecoin du roi, the side of the Paris Opera associated with the proponents of French opéra and the French king. He was resolutely opposed to Rousseau’s statements about French music and the French language alike, and stated as much in one of the most prompt and convincing rebuttals of Rousseau’sLettre sur la musique françaisewritten in the course of theQuerelle des Bouffons. The earliest records of Jacques Gazette’s artistic expression are his songs and romances, for which he composed both words and music. ’II nous vient ici tous les ans/ a...

    • 3 Beaumarchais’s Staged Songs
      (pp. 89-114)

      Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was too young to have participated directly in theQuerelle des Bouffons, yet he grew up in its shadow, so to speak. Raised in a milieu that fostered his interest in the performing arts, he was trained in music from an early age, and his first position at court was that of music teacher to the daughters of Louis XV.¹ In the decades that followed the publication of theLettre sur la musique françaiseit became clear that Rousseau’s critique of French music and the French language was to have generative consequences, for its implications caused...


    • 4 Charrière’s Exercises In Equivocation
      (pp. 117-143)

      Isabella de Charrière, Rousseau’s contemporary and reader, was privy to the cult that arose after his death, yet maintained a more equitable view of his life and writings than did some of his younger enthusiasts.¹ More than once she took up pen in his defence, but careful readings of her works indicate that she never wholeheartedly embraced his ideas on women, marriage, and education.² Though Dutch by birth (néeBelle van Zuylen), Charrière learned French at an early age, and used it in her conversation, correspondence, and literary texts practically to the exclusion of her native tongue.³ She read widely...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 5 Cottin, Krüdener, and Musical Mesmerism
      (pp. 144-172)

      Though their novels were immensely popular in their day, Sophie Cottin and Barbara Juliana von Krüdener have since fallen into comparative oblivion. Recent attempts to revive them have largely been devoted to biographical accounts and surveys of their literary production.¹ I wish, instead, to draw attention to the literary merit of their works by analysing their form and content, focusing upon two in particular, namely Cottin’sMalvina(1800) and Krüdener’sValérie(1803). There are several reasons for treating Cottin and Krüdener’s works in the space of a single chapter. While neither author was sufficiently engaged in the political or aesthetic...

    • 6 Staёl’s Sweet Revenge
      (pp. 173-203)

      Germaine de Staël was enamoured of Charrière’s writing, so much so that Charrière felt obliged to curb Staël’s enthusiasm when she made a pilgrimage to Colombiers, giving her much the same reception as Voltaire had given the young Rousseau. The two authors were separated by their age, sensibility, politics, and affections. Charrière was deeply dismayed by the course the Revolution took, regarding the civil bloodbath with horror. Though Staël did not approve the carnage, she was perhaps more sympathetic to the end in view.¹ Nevertheless, she is said to have exclaimed, in tribute to Charrière’s work, that ‘elle n’aurait jamais...

  9. Afterward
    (pp. 204-214)

    Rousseau’s influential yet controversial statements – which seemed to deny French and Italians, men and women equal access to music’s enhanced powers of expression – led his contemporaries and readers to interrogate the relationship between music, meaning, and morality. Since reading the open-ended invitation implicit in Saint-Preux’s letter to Julie and the challenge implicit in Rousseau’s writings on society, education, and the arts, the authors who took part in, actively followed, or were duly influenced by the contemporary debates about aesthetics and morality collectively transformed the way in which music figured in literary texts. Diderot, Cazotte, and Beaumarchais explored aesthetic solutions to...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 215-256)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 257-272)
  12. Index
    (pp. 273-284)