Academic journal article ARIEL

The Narratological Discourse of Music in E.M. Forster's Novels

Academic journal article ARIEL

The Narratological Discourse of Music in E.M. Forster's Novels

Article excerpt

Music in E.M. Forster's fiction possesses a narratological and discursive nature that embodies social, cultural, political and aesthetic bearings. Music has a certain politics of narration and a mysterious power that transcends limitations imposed upon it. Music can be employed, heard, written, and read as a narrative text that discursively functions within a certain narratological problematics in a novel, poem, or a play. Throughout this article, I argue that music in Forster's fiction is seen as a narrative discourse that affects and even changes the characters' lives. Forster is considered as one of the most important music-lovers among British novelists for whom music had both personal and professional impact and (that is, in his novels) meanings. In his own life, Forster played music well for his own satisfaction, but certainly not as well as his character of Lucy in A Room With a View. He repeatedly and variously deploys music in his novels in ways that this article will attempt to trace and explore. Also, in his own non-fictional writings, which are in themselves valuable pieces of criticism, he presents a critique of the novel form, outlining its striking connection to music as a sublime art that should be imitated in order for the novel to reach sublimity and uniqueness. In this article, I argue that music can be seen as a narrative discourse, and I shall do so through brief elaborations of key passages of Forster's novels.

In stating that music is a narrative discourse, I mean to say that it is made--like a narrative text--by human beings for one another to express the problems, despairs and triumphs of people within certain social contexts. Music as a narrative discourse throughout this article is seen as a semiotic structure, as a message that possesses a multiplicity of meanings. For Forster, music promotes creative expression and provides means to revealing authorial and other intentions; moreover, music possesses a narrating capacity of plural meanings often with ideological and political implications. Indeed, Forster is concerned with how music can vividly convey one's own stories and experiences. I argue that Forster has appropriately employed music as a narrative discourse because it quite literally functions as a site (or, fills a social space) through which the inner feelings and intentions of characters are dramatically revealed. Music as a narrative discourse explains, for me, how Forster has used music as a text that has a transcendental power of aesthetic ideology and a redemptive capacity to address the various conflicts and contradictions in art and life. Indeed, music is a narrative discourse because it acts as a kind of symbolically ideologized and centralized text that can be effectively and cathartically used by and for the representation of conflict surrounding themes of subjects, ideologies, nations and races. Music, like narratives, has then many ideological, social, political, psychological and philosophical implications inherent in it since it is produced by and for the people. Thus, music is a narrative discourse because it epitomizes for Forster these sociological and political questions that run throughout his novels on the personal, social and narratorial levels.

In his book World Music, Politics and Social Change (1989), Simon Frith, a leading popular musicologist, advanced the idea of music as an ideological and social narrative. For some, Frith argues, music is "the paramount expression of human creativity, for others the symbolic affirmation of the western cultural tradition. Others again hear in their music an explicit denial of the values of such a tradition: for them music may mean the sound of protest, rebellion or even revolution" (vii). Edward Said develops a similar argument in Musical Elaborations (1991) where he examines the meanings of music and its cultural and geopolitical implications. He asserts that "music remains situated within the social context as a special variety of aesthetic and cultural experience that contributes to what, following Gramsci, we might call the elaboration or production of civil society" (15). …

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