Fictional form and symphonic structure: An essay in comparative aesthetics

Ratio 22 (4):421-438 (2009)
It is agreed on all hands that both fictional narratives and the familiar genres of classical music possess an inner structure that both can be perceived and be appreciated aesthetically. It is my argument here that this inner structure plays a crucially different role in fictional narrative than it does in classical music, confining myself here to 'absolute music' (which is to say, pure instrumental music without text, programme, dramatic setting, or other 'extra-musical' content). The argument, basically, is that whereas the sophisticated listener to the absolute music repertory is keenly, consciously aware of the inner structure, the sophisticated reader of fictional narrative, the principal exemplar being the novel, is not so aware. Therefore, whereas musical structure directly contributes to aesthetic satisfaction, narrative structure contributes only indirectly (which is not to deny that, at times, the reader is consciously aware of narrative structure, and that, at such times, it does contribute directly to aesthetic satisfaction).
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9329.2009.00443.x
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