Moonlighting: Beethoven and literary modernism

Research output: Book/ReportBook


How and why did the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) matter to experimental writers in the early twentieth century? Previous answers to this question have tended to focus on structural analogies between musical works and literary texts, charting the many different ways in which poetry and prose resemble Beethoven's compositions. This book takes a different approach. It focuses on how early twentieth-century writers—chief among them E. M. Forster, Aldous Huxley, Wyndham Lewis, Dorothy Richardson, Rebecca West, and Virginia Woolf—profited from the representational conventions associated in the nineteenth century and beyond with Beethovenian culture.

The emphasis of Moonlighting falls for the most part on how modernist writers made use of Beethovenian legend. It is concerned neither with formal similarities between Beethoven's music and modernist writing nor with the music of Beethoven per se, but with certain ways of understanding Beethoven's music which had long before 1900 taken shape as habit, myth, cliché, and fantasy, and with the influence they had on experimental writing up to 1930. Moonlighting suggests that the modernists drew knowingly and creatively on the conventional. It proposes that many of the most experimental works of modernist literature were shaped by a knowing reliance on Beethovenian consensus; in short, that the literary modernists knew Beethovenian legend when they saw it, and that they were eager to use it.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages272
ISBN (Electronic)9780192548658
ISBN (Print)9780198816706
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2019


  • Beethoven
  • modernism
  • convention
  • musico-literary
  • music


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