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Reviewed by:
  • Music, Archetype, and the Writer: A Jungian View, and: Beyond Modernism: Toward a New Myth Criticism
  • Philip Stevick
Bettina L. Knapp. Music, Archetype, and the Writer: A Jungian View. University Park: Penn State UP, 1988. 234 pp. $24.95.
Ted R. Spivey. Beyond Modernism: Toward a New Myth Criticism. Lanham: UP of America, 1988. 201 pp. pb. $12.75.

An approach to music that most of us left behind in early childhood suggests the possibility of hearing the trumpet as red, the cello as blue, the oboe as sad, the flute as happy, and the Pastoral Symphony as an evocation of the storm, the calm, the hillside, and the sheep. It was an early act of aesthetic sophistication, for many of us, to decide not to assent when a teacher urged us to close our eyes, listen to the music, and hear marching giants. Music is basically abstract; we knew before we could say it. So it is that Bettina Knapp's first chapter, on E. T. A. Hoffman, comes as a bit of a jolt, a time warp perhaps, because Hoffman "transcends ordinary understanding and experiences the feel, the taste, the perfume of music and all of its associations." Knapp's discussion makes it clear that Hoffman, and his character Kreisler, should seem childlike, certainly more than a little mad, yet perfectly serious, for Kreisler's frenzied synaesthesia is in the service of a recovery of a special sense of music, its rhythms and its power to move, that Knapp calls archetypal: prelogical, of the unconscious understood in Jungian terms. [End Page 383]

Her Introduction surveys both those writers she intends to treat and many more she does not, writers in various ways in touch with, or animated by, "archetypal music," rhythms, tones, harmonic relations that are a priori, elements of the collective unconscious. There is no doubt, as she pursues her Introduction, that a large number of very different writers, not all of them as exotic as Hoffman, have written with the imagination of something like the "archetypal music" she describes, seeking variously to draw upon those primal musical energies, or to see, in music, a more basic connection with the elemental properties of the mind than the other arts provide, or to attempt to energize and organize words by drawing upon the features of those archetypal modes. Still, there are problems with the book, and they are basically two. First, the theoretical underpinnings are so thoroughly and so relentlessly Jungian that a reader not already committed to Jung will find some difficulty locking into the grid. The other problem is that the premise yields different methods and different insights and some are more attractive than others.

Her chapter on Baudelaire and Wagner is striking and persuasive: there is no doubt that Wagner had a profound effect on Baudelaire's sensibility. But the demonstrable effect on Baudelaire's art seems finally rather minimal. The chapter on Tolstoy's "Kreutzer Sonata," on the other hand, renders with a stylish conviction the demonic, archetypal musical force of Tolstoy's text. And the chapter on Kandinsky is the triumph of the book, illuminating the extraordinary union of image, sound, and text in that remarkable artist. Everyone knows of Joyce's involvement with music of every kind, at the deepest possible level of his creative imagination: granted that, Knapp's chapter on "Eveline" seems not to take us very much farther. And her chapter on Sartre's Nausea seems inadvertently amusing. The starting point of her analysis is Roquetin's response to the old blues song: "Some of these days/You'll miss me, honey." Well, as almost everybody knows, it's "One of these days/You're gonna miss me honey." The translated version in Knapp's analysis not only has an impossibly clunky rhythm: it makes no sense. Somehow the idea of Roquetin's kinship with Bessie Smith falls apart on the first page of the chapter and it all simply goes to confirm our conviction that, when it comes to their ability to respond to American vernacular culture, much less the archetypal resonance of a blues-based jazz lyric, the French intellectuals have never had a clue...


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pp. 383-385
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