Modernist Frequencies: Literature, Music, Philosophy

Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2013

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

English and American Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This is an interdisciplinary project that brings musicology to bear on a transatlantic study of modernist literature. It responds to and expands upon Raymond Williams's Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society by establishing its own group of keywords drawn from musical lexicon: silence, overtone, timbre, and counterpoint. I argue that these words should be considered fundamental concepts for literary studies, and investigate the musical aesthetics they represent as unique modes of William Jamesian radically empirical thought. I provide an intellectual history of the modernist musicians, writers, and thinkers who considered these musical features to be central to their work. In particular, I offer novel interpretations of the writing of a constellation of modernist authors rarely brought together: Henry James, Elizabeth Bishop, and Ralph Ellison.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Anca Parvulescu

Committee Members

Steven Meyer, William Maxwell, Joseph Loewenstein, Vincent Sherry, Lutz Koepnick, Robert Snarrenberg


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7Q52MK9

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