Voices from the Crypt

Tamara Levitz

in Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199730162
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932467 | DOI:
Voices from the Crypt

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Chapter 7 explores how formal fragmentation in Perséphone reveals its authors’ melancholic attitudes. The interpretive method here is based on Freud’s Trauer und Melancholie, Derrida’s spectrality, and Abraham and Torok’s notion of the crypt. Gide negotiates his mother’s death and the threat of young homosexuals committing suicide by escaping into archeological fantasy, and thereby connecting with a culture of gay mourning associated with British aestheticism and Walter Pater. His Persephone, like Eurydice, wanders between life and death, achieving what Christopher Peterson calls the “ultimate queer act.” Stravinsky melancholic stance is evident in “Sur ce lit,” which encrypts forbidden desire linked to death. The use of an unpublished setting of Petrarch’s Dialogue on Joy and Reason reveals the trauma of desire and loss in the heart of his neoclassic style. In his eagerness to respect the alterity of the dead, Stravinsky creates the type of disruptive form characteristic of Benjamin’s modernist allegory.

Keywords: Igor Stravinsky; melancholia; André Gide; Jacques Derrida; spectrality; Nicholas Abraham; Nicolas; Maria Torok; the crypt; Freud; Eurydice; melancholia; British aestheticism; archeological aestheticism

Chapter.  37141 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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