Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton October 12, 2020

Graphic analogies in the imitation of music in literature

Rodrigo Guijarro Lasheras
From the journal Semiotica


Music may have a strong influence on literature. Many novels have reflected this by thematizing music in many different ways. However, this engagement can also adopt the form of an imitation or a formal presence that does not actually require the text to say anything about music. This paper aims to explore some aspects of musical imitation in literature that have not been analyzed in depth. Departing from the approach developed by Werner Wolf, I propose a distinction between imitating and imitated elements that applies to any case of study. Furthermore, at the core of this article, I advocate for a fourth dimension that the imitation of music in literature may have and that should be added to word music, formal and structural analogies, and imaginary content analogies. I call this fourth category “graphic analogies.” It implies an imitation whose imitating element is the graphic, written aspect of the linguistic signifier. Finally, this leads to the idea that, in the case of the imitation of music in literature, there is not a necessary correlation between imitating and imitated elements.

Corresponding author: Rodrigo Guijarro Lasheras, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain, E-mail:


Benson, Stephen. 2006. Literary music: Writing music in contemporary fiction. Aldershot: Ashgate.Search in Google Scholar

Burgess, Anthony. 1974. Napoleon symphony: A novel in four movements. London: Cape.Search in Google Scholar

Burgess, Anthony. 1983. This man and music. New York: McGraw-Hill.Search in Google Scholar

Burgess, Anthony. 1991. Mozart and the wolf gang. London: Hutchinson.Search in Google Scholar

Culler, Jonathan. 1981. The pursuit of signs: Semiotics, literature, deconstruction. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.10.2307/3684090Search in Google Scholar

Forster, Edward Morgan. 2000. Howards end. New York: Penguin.Search in Google Scholar

Hallet, Wolfgang. 2009. The multimodal novel: The integration of modes and media in novelistic narration. In Sandra Heinen & Roy Sommer (eds.), Narratology in the age of cross-disciplinary narrative research, 129–153. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter.Search in Google Scholar

Hull, Katherine A. & Richard Kenneth Atkins. 2017. Peirce on perception and reasoning: From icons to logic. London: Routledge.10.4324/9781315444642Search in Google Scholar

Huston, Nancy. 2008. Goldberg variations. Toronto: McArthur.Search in Google Scholar

Jakobson, Roman. 1971. Word and language (Selected writings 2). The Hague & Paris: Mouton.10.1515/9783110873269Search in Google Scholar

Jewitt, Carey. 2014. Introduction to part 1. In Jewitt Carey (ed.), The Routledge handbook of multimodal analysis, 2nd edn., 11–14. London & New York: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Johnston, Maura. 2012. Organized noise. The Slate Book Review. 5 May. (accessed 30 April 2018).Search in Google Scholar

Kress, Gunther & Theo van Leeuwen. 2001. Multimodal discourse: The modes and media of contemporary communication. London: Hodder Arnold.Search in Google Scholar

Litt, Toby. 2012. Sound: A novel by TM Wolf – Review. The Guardian. 20 July. (accessed 30 April 2018).Search in Google Scholar

Nattiez, Jean-Jacques. 1991. Music and discourse: Toward a semiology of music. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Peirce, Charles S. 1982. In Max H. Fisch, Edward C. Moore & Christian J. W. Kloesel (eds.), Writings of Charles S. Peirce, 8 vols. Bloomington: Indiana University Press [Reference to Peirce’s writings will be designated W followed by volume and page number.].Search in Google Scholar

Petermann, Emily. 2014. The musical novel: Imitation of musical structure, performance and reception in contemporary fiction. Rochester, NY: Camden House.Search in Google Scholar

Pérez de Ayala, Ramón. 1998. Obras completas, vol. 1. Madrid: Biblioteca Castro.Search in Google Scholar

Ruwet, Nicolas. 1972. Langage, musique, poésie. Paris: Seuil.Search in Google Scholar

Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1971. Cours de linguistique générale. Paris: Payot.Search in Google Scholar

Scher, Steven Paul. 1968. Verbal music in German literature (Yale Germanic Studies 2). New Haven: Yale University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Scher, Steven Paul. 1970. Notes toward a theory of verbal music. Comparative Literature 22. 147–156. in Google Scholar

Shockley, Alan. 2009. Music in the words: Musical form and counterpoint in the twentieth-century novel. Farnham: Ashgate.Search in Google Scholar

Smith, Hazel. 2016. The contemporary literature-music relationship: Intermedia, voice,technology, cross-cultural exchange. New York & London: Routledge.10.4324/9781315723792Search in Google Scholar

Smyth, Gerry. 2008. Music in contemporary British fiction: Listening to the novel. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.Search in Google Scholar

Wolf, T. M. 2012. Sound. New York & London: Faber & Faber.Search in Google Scholar

Wolf, Werner. 1999. The musicalization of fiction: A study in the theory and history of intermediality. Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi.Search in Google Scholar

Wolf, Werner. 2015. Literature and music: Theory. In Gabriele Rippl (ed.), Handbook of intermediality: Literature – image – sound – music. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter.10.1515/9783110311075-026Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2020-10-12
Published in Print: 2020-12-16

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Scroll Up Arrow