Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2012

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Romance Languages and Literature: French Language and Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Despite the different approaches of George Sand, Marie d'Agoult and Marie Krysinska, these novelists form a critical group of women writers who cross boundaries through narrative in the nineteenth century. As this is a neglected chapter in the history of music and literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this dissertation addresses the contributions of these writers through the development of the musical novel. Previous analyses of Sand's works have underscored her use of music as a form of communication in her novels. I argue, however, that Sand, as well as d'Agoult and Krysinska, advance their narratives through the employment of the changing aesthetics of instrumental music of the time period in their prose narrative. The significant role of music in their novels and the way in which they incorporate music into their narratives draw attention to the representation of the musical experience - one that is affective and emotive. I posit that the trajectory of these authors outlines the redefinition of music as a vehicle which not only communicates and functions as language, but also contributes to a new musical experience. My linking of Sand, d'Agoult and Krysinska, thus proposes a new area of word and music studies and a new branch of the feminist aesthetic canon. An understanding of the influence of music on the works of these three women writers, marginalized during their time, clarifies the vital role these authors and their works played in the important aesthetic and literary evolution that took place in literature during this period, while also underscoring their contribution to cultural studies of the early twentieth century.

Musical and literary sensibilities of the nineteenth century were influenced by the changing aesthetic responses by the public to music and literature. One of the impacts on this development was the perception of music which shifted during the course of the century, ultimately affecting the writing style of the period. A transformation took place not only in the behavior of audiences, which became increasingly silent, but in the perception of music by the listener. This change in degree and depth of engagement while listening corresponds to the perception of instrumental music as dramatic and expressive, specifically piano music, and the development of the miniature form. This genre, best exemplified by the works of Robert Schumann, Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt, illustrates the nineteenth-century theory of musical expression, a representation of sentiments and emotions, with music interpreted as language.

As current literary criticism attempts to understand literature in musical terms, analysis must explore the transposition of music or musical effects into literary expression by investigating how music and musical elements shape the form of the text and advance the narrative through the imitation of musical development. In order to unmask and interrogate the language used in literature and reveal its connection to music, I turn to the work of Hélène Cixous and Julia Kristéva. By looking at the works of these authors through the lens of the musical novel, this dissertation provides a new perspective with which to view Cixous' l'écriture féminine and lies at the intersections of nineteenth-century French literature, musical aesthetics, narrative authority and gender studies.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Stamos Metzidakis

Committee Members

Tili Boon Cuillé, Pascal Ifri, Hugh Macdonald, Annie K. Smart, Colette Winn


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