The writer's fugue : musicalization, trauma and subjectivity in the literature of modernity

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This interdisciplinary inquiry utilises the contested context of 'subjectivity' as a frame for seeking to analyse and understand the process of writing as creative art. The main problem investigated involves the construction of the subject in language and the construction of subjectivity in the literature of modernity. The heuristic vehicle chosen for exploring dichotomies in discourse around cultural, social and literary constructions of the subject, is the fugue - a cultural figure with dual-meanings. The musical fugue is a polyphonic, contrapuntal social musical form that develops from one or two melodic subject lines or themes, played in numerous variations by several 'voices', implying rule-governed tum-taking dialogic communication. In direct contrast, the psychogenic fugue is a 'mysterious' condition of dissociation involving an individual subject losing awareness of self-identity, wandering off on a solitary journey of temporary amnesia. The classic musical fugue form has been converted into a rhetorical, symbolic and above all creative figure by self-consciously inventive literary authors in musicalized works derived from their author's own experiences of trauma. Examples analysed here are De Quincey's Dream-Fugue, Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, the 'Sirens' section in Joyce's Ulysses, Celan's Todesfuge and Plath's Little Fugue. This fugal analysis contextualises these intermedial works alongside wider parallels of musicology and current research in scientific medical discourse on the psychogenic fugue. Through this inter-disciplinary phenomenological inquiry emerges a fresh approach: the cultural construction of subjectivity in innovative forms of writing herein referred to as the 'writer's fugue' and 'the fugal modality of writing'. Bringing together distinctive discourses from the arts, medical science, psychoanalysis and poststructuralist linguistic theory suggests new meanings may be wrought concerning the construction/ deconstruction/ reconstruction/ structuration/ and post-structuration of what is herein termed the 'fugal' subject in the language and literature of modernity. These meanings provide a basis for a continuing inquiry not only into subjectivity but also into the creative process.
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