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Nineteenth Century French Studies 31.3&4 (2003) 383-385

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Powell, David A. While the Music Lasts: The Representation of Music in the Works of George Sand. Lewisburg: Bucknell UP/London: AUP, 2001. Pp. 381. ISBN 0-8387-5474-0

Unlike so many interdisciplinary studies which deal with the relationship between literature and the visual arts, this one brings together literature and the art form dependent upon our sense of hearing - music. Powell's goal is twofold: to look at how Sand "defines her own perceptions of music," and, more important, how she "puts [End Page 383] these notions to work in her fiction" (13). Reluctant to adopt an approach that relies on jargon and "pseudo-musicological analyses," Powell draws from a wide range of critical methodologies, including narratology, semiotics, musico-literary analysis, feminism, and psychoanalysis, while allowing the individual Sandian text to reveal its own particular "musico-literary key" (16).

In Chapter 1, "Ballad and Bildung - Music and Narrative," Powell examines the extent to which music determines the plot and structure of texts such as Consuelo (with its sequel, La Comtesse de Rudolstadt) and Les Maîtres Sonneurs. Travel and the student-teacher relationship are instrumental in the training of musicians, whose musical development typically parallels their moral, spiritual, emotional, and political growth (27). Chapter 2 outlines Sand's efforts to define a musical language and to articulate how music communicates. The principal challenge she faces is the obvious one: how "to portray the effects and meaning of music and the musical experience in literary writing, to represent a nonverbal art form in a verbal form" (60). Sand's desire to reconcile literary and musical language is evidenced by her incorporation into her fiction of musical techniques such as ornamentation and improvisation. In the final analysis, music in the Sandian world is often "a more sincere form of communication and source of knowledge" (132) than verbal language.

The focus of Chapter 3 is music's connection to love and madness. Just as musical Bildung goes hand in hand with other kinds of personal development, love plots and musical plots are locked in a cause-effect relationship wherein progress in one effects a similar change in the other (134). Likewise, in a number of Sand's works (Adriani, for one), madness, an "outgrowth of love" (169) found with some frequency in the Romantic sensibility, becomes intertwined with music "as the conveyor of uncontrolled and uncontrollable reactions" (174). Powell's analysis of love/ madness/music leads naturally into Chapter 4, where he explores Sand's use of musical elements to enhance the structure and function of the fantastic in "Carl," "Histoire du rêveur," and Maître Favilla, among other texts. Music and the fantastic intersect, Powell claims, precisely because the "nebulous nature" of the latter suggests the intangibility of the former (234).

Turning in the penultimate chapter to the subject of folk music, Powell surveys the ethnomusicological contributions of Sand's fiction (particularly the rustic novels) and her theatrical and ethnological writings. Showcasing regional music enabled Sand not only to shape her readers' opinion of the provinces (namely Berry) but to "define and valorize the peasantry in a time when French society was searching for redefinition" (278). Finally, in Chapter 6, Powell addresses Sand's views on a variety of issues such as the musician's place in society and Saint-Simonism. Les Sept Cordes de la lyre, Sand's "most explicit manifesto of musical socialism," conveys "a burgeoning yet naïve belief in the power of music to 'tame the savage breast' " (23). Powell looks in particular at the role of the female musician, for whom music serves as "a form of escape from a man's world or as an alternate means of communication when verbal language would mean tackling a man's world" (24). [End Page 384]

Powell concludes by reiterating the importance of music to Sand, who considered it nothing less than the "central vehicle of communication among humans," however fundamentally unfathomable its language might be (326). Like Sand, he is...


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