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Sounding Prose

Sounding Prose

Music in the 17th-Century Dutch Novel

Natascha Veldhorst, Assistant Professor Arts and Culture Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen, recently completed her book on the presence of music in novels.

This book is about the presence of music in the early modern novel, with an emphasis on seventeenth-century prose from The Netherlands. The essay provides a concise and an accessible introduction into the subject and presents an overview of this compelling new research area.

In recent years the interest in this subject has substantially increased both among literary critics―who coined a special term for the phenomenon and speak of ‘music novels’―and academics, who started doing systematic and in-depth musico-literary research. Initially, the research was focused mainly on the influence of music in novels from the period around 1900, the works by modernist writers like Thomas Mann, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Later, also the novelistic oeuvre of twentieth- and twenty-first-century ‘musical’ authors like Milan Kundera, Simon Vestdijk and Toni Morrison became subject of study. It is remarkable that up until now the presence of musical elements in prose works from earlier centuries received almost no attention from academic researchers. This essay wants to contribute to filling this lacuna.

The book offers the reader an impression and overview of this intriguing interdisciplinary field. First, it presents an exploration of the role and function of musical elements in seventeenth-century Dutch prose fiction. Many examples from primary literature are discussed and are consistently considered in the light of contemporary European developments. Secondly, the publication serves as an introduction to a fascinating new research area, that is at an international level, too, virtually unexplored. This makes it the first transnational study devoted to musical practices in the Golden Age novel. Accordingly, the text investigates several options for future research.