Jul 12, 2020  
College Catalog 2020-2021 
    
College Catalog 2020-2021

ENGL 225 - Musical Fictions

Cross-Listed as MUSI 225  
From E. M. Forster’s Lucy Honeychurch, who “entered into a more solid world when she opened the piano,” to James Baldwin’s Sonny, who “moved in an atmosphere which wasn’t like theirs at all,” fictional musicians encounter trouble when negotiating the conflicting realms of art and society. Experts in one kind of expression, they fail in others. What draws these characters to music? What does it offer them? What is its value to us? In the musical novel and short story, we encounter music as an agent of violence, of consolation, of transcendence and redemption as well as damnation. We witness empathy through music, but we also learn that shared feeling can be both beautiful and dangerous, that music unites and divides. This course combines the close reading of literary texts (as well as works of literary theory and musicology) with the examination of the musical contexts that inform and inspire them. We will explore, for example, the relationship between Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Unconsoled and Richard Wagner’s music drama Parsifal. We will talk about syncopation in “jazz” by Charles Mingus and Toni Morrison. We will watch Marguerite Duras and Katherine Mansfield turn innocuous music lessons into spaces of wretchedness. We will try to understand what David Mitchell’s young composer Robert Frobisher means when he says, “One writes music because winter is eternal and because, if one didn’t, the wolves and blizzards would be at one’s throat all the sooner.” Alternate years. (4 Credits)