Her "whole soul was ear": Novel Sound, Experimental Music, and Artistic Community in Mary Shelley's The Last Man
Abstract

abstract:

Composed after the destruction of her beloved circle of family and friends, Mary Shelley's The Last Man conducts readers through a narrative heretofore unrecognized as exceedingly experimental. This essay argues that Shelley incorporates a language of sound and music into The Last Man to amplify the intellectual and emotional resonance of her highly inventive novel. It begins by examining the musical musings in Shelley's journals and letters in the months surrounding The Last Man's inception, suggesting these forays as origins of innovations that find ultimate expression in the novel. Next, close readings of The Last Man's musical metaphors and sonically themed references solidify music as a textual hermeneutic and as a metaphor for artistic community inside and outside the world of the novel. This essay concludes that Shelley's text incorporates elements of written musical scores. Shelley's unique novel thus unites the language of narrative with the language of written music.