Borrowed Forms

BookBorrowed Forms

Borrowed Forms

The Music and Ethics of Transnational Fiction


June 18th, 2014


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An Open Access edition of this book is available on the Liverpool University Press website and the OAPEN library.
Borrowed Forms examines the use of music by contemporary novelists and critics from across the Francophone, Anglophone, and Hispanophone worlds. Through readings of Nancy Huston, Maryse Condé, J. M. Coetzee, Assia Djebar, Julio Cortázar, and other late twentieth-century novelists, the book shows how writers deploy musical strategies to expand the possibilities of the novel in response to the demands of transnational citizenship. The book transcends disciplinary boundaries, to reveal the entanglement of musical and narrative forms in ethical, historical, and political questions. Critics from Mikhail Bakhtin to Edward Said established musical forms as an indispensable framework for understanding the novel. This study argues that the turn to music in late twentieth century fiction is linked to new questions of authority and representation, as writers seek to democratize the novel, to bring marginalized voices into fiction, to articulate increasingly hybrid subjectivities, and to negotiate the conflicting histories of the diverse groups that make up today's multicultural societies. The book traces the influence of four musical concepts on theory and the contemporary novel: polyphony, or the art of combining multiple, equal voices; counterpoint, the carefully regulated setting of one voice against another; variations, the virtuosic exploration of a given theme; and opera, the dramatic setting of a story to a musical score. Borrowed Forms is both a vital reference for all those seeking to understand the influence of music on 20th-century literary theory, and a rigorous and interdisciplinary framework for considering the transnational novel.

Highlights the influence of music on the contemporary novel Calls attention to the ethical and political dimensions of aesthetic forms Offers a new, interdisciplinary approach to transnational fiction Reads major novels from across the Francophone and Anglophone worlds, bridging the gap between postcolonial and francophone studies Evaluates the relationship between music and ethics in the work of major literary critics, including Mikhail Bakhtin and Edward Said.

Kathryn Lachman is Assistant Professor of French and Comparative Literatures at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Co-chair of the Five College Faculty Seminar. Born in South Africa, violinist trained at the Yale School of Music and Paris Conservatory, Assistant Concertmaster of the Yale Symphony Orchestra, recipient of the Henry Hart Rice Fellowship for research in Beirut Lebanon in 1998, wrote for the Dailystar in Beirut and taught at the American Community School in Beirut from 1998-2001. PhD Princeton University (2008), Simultaneous award of the MA and BA degrees from Yale University (1998), Premier Prix in Violin Performance and Music History from the Conservatoire National de Région de Paris, 1995


'It is a bold, broad, and innovative study. It will be of interest to all those who work with these complicated, engaging, and fascinating encounters between the literary and the musical.'
Claire Launchbury, French Studies

'Kathryn Lachman's book is not simply about the replication of musical form in literature but is a wide-ranging study of how writers and thinkers have engaged with the musical, its structures, and its performance across national traditions, and from which she extrapolates ethical concerns.'
French Studies Vol. 69 No. 3

Author Information

Kathryn Lachman is Assistant Professor of French and Comparative Literatures at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title page4
Copyright page5
Chapter 138
Chapter 268
Chapter 398
Chapter 4122
Works Cited184