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History of a ShiverThe Sublime Impudence of Modernism$
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Jed Rasula

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199396290

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199396290.001.0001

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Endless Melody

Endless Melody

A Theoretical Excursion

Chapter:
(p.222) 7 Endless Melody
Source:
History of a Shiver
Author(s):

Jed Rasula

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199396290.003.0008

An innovation essential to Richard Wagner’s music was what he called “endless melody.” This chapter scrutinizes his theory of the concept. While endless melody was instrumental in inspiring the stream-of-consciousness technique in fiction, its implications for modernism in general have to do with the aspiration to make everything count, to do away with padding and empty formality. Yet a conflation of intensity with grandiosity is part of its nineteenth-century legacy, and the grandiose brings with it the resuscitation of eighteenth-century theories of the sublime. Those theories were inspired by volcanic activity, a geophysical force called up again in early theorists of cinema, in which we find the perpetuum mobile of endless melody aligned with film’s capacity to unfurl a lava flow of images.

Keywords:   Richard Wagner, endless melody, the sublime, film theory

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