1st Edition

Music and Myth in Modern Literature

By Josh Torabi Copyright 2021
    236 Pages
    by Routledge

    236 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book is the first major study that explores the intrinsic connection between music and myth, as Nietzsche conceived of it in The Birth of Tragedy (1872), in three great works of modern literature: Romain Rolland’s Nobel Prize winning novel Jean-Christophe (1904-12), James Joyce’s modernist epic Ulysses (1922), and Thomas Mann’s late masterpiece Doctor Faustus (1947). Juxtaposing Nietzsche’s conception of the Apollonian and Dionysian with narrative depictions of music and myth, Josh Torabi challenges the common view that the latter half of The Birth of Tragedy is of secondary importance to the first. Informed by a deep knowledge of Nietzsche’s early aesthetics, the book goes on to offer a fresh and original perspective on Ulysses and Doctor Faustus, two world-famous novels that are rarely discussed together, and makes the case for the significance of Jean-Christophe, which has been unfairly neglected in the Anglophone world, despite Rolland’s status as a major figure in twentieth-century intellectual and literary history. This unique study reveals new depths to the work of our most enduring writers and thinkers.  

    Prelude: Chasing the Ineffable

    1. Schopenhauer, Wagner and Nietzsche: the Musicalization of Myth and the Mythologization of Music in The Birth of Tragedy

    Musico-Mythic Beginnings

    Schopenhauer’s Metaphysics of Music in The World as Will and Representation

    Wagner: Musicalizing Nation and Myth in Beethoven

    Nietzsche’s Aesthetic Models of Music and Myth in The Birth of Tragedy

    Towards a Nietzschean Configuration in the Modern Novel

    2. Jean-Christophe: The Silent Music of the Soul

    The Genesis of Jean-Christophe

    A Born Musician: Jean-Christophe’s Early Years

    The Roots of Artistic Creation: Jean-Christophe the Creator

    Music Fictionalized: Jean-Christophe’s Compositions

    Divisions: Apollo, Dionysus and Franco-German Musico-Literary Relations in Jean-Christophe

    Jean-Christophe’s Final Voyage: Improvisation, Italy and Late Music

    3. Joyce’s ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’: Performative Music and Mythic Method in Ulysses

    Approaching Music and Myth in Ulysses

    Stephen Dedalus-Dionysus: A Portrait of the Artist’s Aesthetic Theory in "Proteus"

    From Apollo to Bloom: Resisting Songs in the "Sirens"

    And Behold: Leopold Could Not Live Without Stephen! The Apollonian and Dionysian,

    Side by Side in "Eumaeus"

    Home at Last: Stephen Speaks the Language of Bloom; and Bloom, Finally the Language

    of Stephen; and so the Highest Goal of Comedy and of Ulysses is Attained.

    Myth Updating in Ulysses

    4. The Pact: Music and Myth in Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus

    Demonic Origins

    Mann and Myth

    Part I: Adrian Leverkühn’s Education

    Kretzschmar’s Lectures

    Part II: Why Adrian Leverkühn Writes Such Good Music

    The Early Works

    Apocalypse Now!

    The Great Lament: Adrian Leverkühn’s Masterpiece and Faust’s Redemption

    Reprise: Myth and Music as Motifs in the Modern Novel


    Josh Torabi is an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellow at Trinity College Dublin. He received his PhD in Comparative Literature from UCL in 2020. He has held various scholarships and visiting fellowships at Yale University (2017), the Zurich James Joyce Foundation (2018-19), ILCS (formerly the Institute of Modern Languages Research), University of London (2020-21) and Queen Mary University of London (2020-23). Josh’s research focuses on the aesthetic intersections between literature, music and philosophy in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a particular focus on European modernism. He is Chair of the Oscar Levy Forum for Nietzsche Studies at the Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations, Queen Mary University of London.