Mon 22 April 2024
Previous Issues
NAWE aims to put creativity at the heart of education. NAWE is a charity funded largely by its members fees and donations.
Current Issue
Forthcoming Issue
Previous Issues
Article Search
You are here: Home > Writing in Education > Writing at University > Writing in Practice > Previous Issues > Vol. 5 > “That Wicked Arsonist”: Writing the musical interlude
“That Wicked Arsonist”: Writing the musical interlude
Author: Eric Bronson
Eric Bronson surveys music featuring in fiction, mapping influences on his own novel’s narration of ragtime jazz.


How can we use words to describe the irrational effects of music? I confounded myself with this question while writing my historical fiction novel on ragtime composer Scott Joplin. Inevitably, writing music into fiction reveals a kind of literary schizophrenia inside us authors. On the one hand, introducing music is a useful literary device for giving characters and readers non-rational, affective experiences that plot-driven language labours to achieve. But musical melodies also open our texts to misunderstanding and misappropriation. It’s a highly flammable compound. Once I learned how all written words are kinds of musical sparks, I discovered more dynamic and dangerous ways of writing scenes.


Keywords: Musical interlude, absolute music, emotion theory, madness, formalism, performance reading


“That Wicked Arsonist”: Writing the musical interlude

Here’s what we know. Sometime around 1899, after a childhood of poverty and personal tragedy, John Stark, a white ex-ice-cream salesman, heard a black piano player belt out syncopated music in the classical tradition and was deeply moved. Today, when we hear Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag”, or his “Entertainer”, it sounds cartoonish, childlike. How can we explain what Stark heard? What he felt? How can anyone put words to a moving musical experience? That was my primary interest and challenge while writing King of Rags (Bronson 2013), a fictional account of the desperate yearnings of underbelly artists in America’s ragtime era. I’m not the first person to try to put something lyrical and unspeakable into words. And to be perfectly honest, I’m hardly the first author to fall short of my highest hopes.

In the opening of Andrei Bitov’s novel, The Symmetry Teacher, a grumpy writer bemoans his own irrelevancy and the pointlessness of his published books. “You reach toward God and it’s words, you fall to earth - and it’s your homeland” (2014: 51). According to Bitov’s fictional character, a well-written novel might fire the imagination but its wildest flights of fancy must always land us close to home. The problem is not the considerable talents of so many novelists, but the mealy language we have to work with. As many of us frustrated authors have discovered, there always seems to be something just out of reach of the written word.

Because musicians don’t need to rely solely on words, they would seem to have some built-in advantages over the rest of us confined by our respective and restrictive languages. Music seems like the ideal discount carrier, spiriting its listeners off to the most sought-after places cheaper, faster, on a more direct route than the best literature can ever offer. In Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert writes, “Human speech is like a cracked tin kettle on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars” (1892: 210). According to Flaubert, written language is a broken instrument, its best authors destined to be second-rate musicians. 

At the core of the issue is the role of the emotions. Jenefer Robinson, an advocate of the emotion theory, argues that “music works through ‘non-cognitive’ channels and evokes at least some aspects of emotion, such as physiological changes, in an automatic way” (2005: 412, fn. 7). Even philosophers of music who deny direct connections to the emotions acknowledge the inherent advantage music has over literature. Whether one adheres to the idea that the musical experience is “meaningful of emotions” (Davies 2003: 128), or simply an “aural pleasure of the mind” (Kivy 2009: 243), the point is the same. Namely, that music, absolute music, is unique because it points to no specific content. Its sweetest strains are “bearers of vital import without denotative significance.” (Bowman 1998: 215) Because it does not obviously represent anything concrete, absolute music helps liberate us from the world that language inevitably engages (Kivy 1997: 204). 

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, the theory goes. Since the novel’s flowering in the Romantic Age, many of the best writers have sought to transcend the perceived deficiencies of their art by incorporating musical interludes into their stories. It is a dangerous courtship because any attempt to trap music in the snare of language often blows up the carefully constructed narrative bridge between the reader and the story.


The Madness of the Music

In King of Rags, I wanted to make rational points that capture the spirit of ragtime. That’s the first impossible challenge because a large part of music’s appeal lies in its non-rational effect on the listener. Traditionally it has played well alongside religious or mystical states that cannot be explained or even understood in words. As Pablo the jazz musician explains in Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf, “Though I carried the complete works of Bach and Haydn in my head and could say the cleverest things about them, not a soul would be the better for it. But when I take hold of my mouthpiece and play a lively shimmy, whether the shimmy be good or bad, it will give people pleasure. It gets into their legs and into their blood” (1964: 132).

The Steppenwolf, ever “dreaming of a speech without words that utters the inexpressible and gives form to the formless,” inevitably concedes to Pablo. He comes from a long line of German intellectuals who have “constantly rebelled against the word and against reason and courted music” (1964: 135). Throughout the novel, Hesse shows us how a fictional writer learns to sing the praises of music over the written word.

But to be persuasive the author must rely on the structure and grammar of the German language. It is a kind of literary schizophrenia inherited from 19th century novelists. Romantic writers were understandably uneasy about advocating for the irrational, for trying to get into the “legs and the blood” of the readers through rational language. “The assiduous demand that music be subordinated to a text is symptomatic of their disquiet” (Hamilton 2008: 124). Authors of the Romantic Age dallied with music to give readers a passionate experience. But then the author returned the reader back home as though nothing happened, as though ordinary language in an orderly world might still hold some kind of authority after the breathless experience the musical interlude helped trigger.

It is a strange thing courting the very thing that one will have trouble subordinating. And yet that is precisely what the Romantic writer of the musical interlude appears to do. In Leo Tolstoy’s short story, “The Kreutzer Sonata”, the narrator recognizes the power of music to destroy his carefully calculated, stable world. He is well-versed in “the intimacy that’s associated with artistic pursuits - with painting, and especially music” (2008: 161). But when he catches a famous violin player suspiciously alone with his wife, he politely walks him out, because “how could one fail to accompany out a man who had arrived with the express purpose of shattering one’s peace of mind and destroying the happiness of a whole family?” (2008: 162).

Tolstoy’s narrator then goes out of his way to invite guests to hear the violin player play a duet with his wife. He, better than anyone, knows that a certain kind of music played a certain kind of way is “such a fearful thing;” it “sometimes has such a horrible effect,” sometimes even “the most shattering effect” (2008: 163). The irrational music is a formidable foe to the more rational, language-governed worldview of the lead character.  As John Hamilton reminds us, music is “capable of befuddling the clear thinker, driving the resolute into perplexity, or even sinking those already unstable further into madness” (2008: 122).

The drawing-room concert is a particularly vivid backdrop for the clash of two seemingly antithetical worlds. Tolstoy’s narrator, like Tolstoy himself, courts the irrational powers of music, fully aware that it must call his own written works into serious question. For the reader, it’s more than shattering. It’s damning. The musical interlude cannot be the last “word.” Otherwise, the defeat of language, and the rational structure that so often informs it, takes us down an all-too-slippery slope into disorder, chaos, even madness. Hamilton presciently points out that “music and madness disrupt the clear and clean working of plot driven language” (2008: 150), which again returns us to the question, why do it at all?

In his semi-autobiographical novel, composer, critic, and novelist E. T. A. Hoffmann introduces the reader to the volatile Kapellmeister, Johannes Kreisler. Volatile because, as his friend tells him, “music affects you too strongly, even destructively; for at the performance of any excellent work your whole being seems filled with it, and at the same time all the features of your face change. You become pale and incapable of speech...” (1999: 63). Hoffmann takes us again into the drawing-room to show Kreisler at his maddening best. At the piano, accompanying his newest apprentice, Kreisler shamelessly plays music without restraint, “to founder in the roaring stream of chords until ardent sighs announced imminent death and the last addio burst forth in a wild cry of pain from the lacerated heart like a fountain of blood” (1999: 118).

The drawing-room guests are mesmerized. Only the Princess calls Kreisler out for his dangerous music. She begs him to consider if it is “proper, that in a pleasant gathering where friendly conversation should prevail . . . that such extravagant things are served up which lacerate the soul and whose powerful, destructive effect cannot be mastered?” (1999: 118). Kreisler responds, “No matter how much tea, how much sugared water, how much respectable conversation, even how much pleasant chitchat one spills out, this or that wicked arsonist still succeeds in throwing a firecracker in our hearts and flames flare up, flare up and even burn, which pure moonlight never does” (1999: 118). Hoffmann, an author and composer, recognizes that the “wicked arsonist” of music de-stabilizes what civilization and his own structured language set out to conquer.

But what is that wicked arsonist that music and the author of the musical interlude unleashes on civilized society? It’s an alluring metaphor because unlike the more private disintegration of a literary character, it implies a public threat. An arsonist rarely strikes one time. Musicians, writers, revelers and readers: now we’re all at risk.  


The Petite Affect

Perhaps the best-known writing of a musical interlude is Proust’s depiction of a beautifully played piano sonata in Swann’s Way, the first book of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. One petite phrase in the sonata affects Swann deeply, more deeply than anything he has read or written. Once again, an author shows us how music picks up from where the written word dies.  

With a slow rhythm it led him first here, then there, then elsewhere, towards a happiness that was noble, unintelligible and precise. And then suddenly, having reached a point from which he was preparing to follow it, after an instant’s pause, abruptly it changed direction, and with a new movement, quicker, slighter, more melancholy, incessant and sweet, it carried him off with it towards unfamiliar vistas. Then it disappeared. He wished passionately to see it a third time (1969: 212-213).

Swann, like Proust, recognizes how difficult it is to nail down musical impressions in one coherent thought.

In the classic formalist argument, first philosophically articulated by Hanslik in 1891, music is so difficult to comprehend rationally because it isn’t about anything, at least nothing we can pinpoint in our everyday language. It would seem that the best thing authors can do is politely step aside and put down their words once the music starts. It’s noteworthy that Proust never puts a name to his sonata. “It would be impossible for Proust to label a tune,” writes E. M. Forster, author and musicologist. “He understands too much about music, and also about people, to suppose that the relationship between them could be bottled up in words” (1964: 103).

But something is happening inside the fictional Swann, and something also is being put into words. In Proust’s fiction, only Swann is affected in such a potentially life-changing way. The other regulars who gather in the drawing-room for idle banter are surprised and amused by Swann. Even the pianist fumbles with clichés in his explanation about what he has played. Life will continue as always for the others. Life appears to continue as always for Swann, too, but now his peace is forever disturbed. A musical experience has uprooted him. After thinking it through rationally, in common language, he comes to the devastating conclusion that more interesting life paths are forever closed to him.

But what is it that Proust’s Swann is experiencing? Can we be more specific?  It’s hard to say, or write, exactly. When a musical interlude like Proust’s mysterious sonata is introduced into the prose, it breaks the more authoritative, passive experience of understanding a fictional character exactly the way the author intends. So many details of Swann’s life are painstakingly constructed by Proust (or more accurately, constructed by Proust’s invented narrator). The concert in the drawing-room is the first time Proust fully opens Swann up to the reader’s interpretation. The author of the musical interlude appears to relinquish the very control of the narrative he had so carefully constructed. 

Music serves as a welcome buffer between the author and reader. This space without substance, this sine materia is a fallow field left to the reader who is now freed to plant (or not plant) the seeds already given to her from earlier cues in the book, mixed together with her own interpretations and affective experiences from outside the novel. A fundamental aspect of affective appraisal is the recognition that we’re all different from one another, each with our own unique interpretations. Musical interludes give the readers of fiction a safe space to work out the ideas for themselves. Then, as they come to terms with what they’ve experienced, they performs a kind of “’cognitive monitoring’ of emotional experience” (Robinson 2005: 256) that leans on the writer’s language. Proust draws on music to create a dramatic break in order to highlight a dramatic change inside his character. But in doing so, he has given up the power to dictate precisely what those changes are and how they ought to be interpreted. 

A long line of Romantic authors before Proust interrupted their linear prose without relying on music. Whether it was a stormy night at sea or a love affair on land, there were countless scenarios one could call upon to break the everyday prose. But music has one advantage over Romantic terror and heartbreak. The same music can be repeated. Even before piano rolls and MP3 players, notated music could be played again and again. Obviously, no two performances could ever be exactly alike, but the same strains of music could be repeated to help certain trains of thought rumble across our multi-tracked minds. It is telling that in Proust’s passage it isn’t the first time Swann has heard the petite phrase. It won’t be the last time either. At least three different piano players will trigger that something, whatever it is, welling up inside of Swann. Unlike many powerful, but transient mystical experiences, a repeatable musical performance makes for a useful literary device to develop a character’s cognitive monitoring over time.

What is interesting for me is that in pairing literature with music, the authors seem so uneasy with their invited guest. By introducing the musical interlude, the author appears to retreat, surrendering control of the story to the reader and the whimsical rhythms of the fictional music. In the beginning of the writing process I wanted to put the sounds of ragtime music to words, but still control the narrative arc. In short, I was destined for disappointment.


Musical Discords

An important characteristic of music, as noted at the outset, is its absence of clearly signified meaning. But without clearly signified meanings, musical works can be easily misappropriated, or at least appropriated in ethically irresponsible ways. Music can be used as an escape from the social community, a replacement for the hard work of authentically helping others. One can become lost emotionally, cowardly retreating or violently striking out instead of seeking more constructive means of expression. You can say whatever you want about music, and who can tell you you’re going off-track?

John Updike makes his readers uncomfortable with the musical interlude he writes into his short story, “Ace in the Hole.” The central character, Ace, is Updike’s prelude to his better-known Rabbit Run anti-hero who is never quite strong enough to stay in the world he makes a mess of. In “Ace in the Hole,” Ace has lost his job and must come clean to Evey, the mother of his child. The time for a serious talk is at hand. But then, Updike writes, “The radio came in on something slow and tinkly: dinner music” (Updike 2003: 151). Evey wants to talk. There are issues.  Real issues like finances, a baby, a cloudy future understood too casually, irresponsibly. “When with a sudden injection of saxophones, the tempo quickened,” Ace continues to regress, turning to the music instead of to the everyday problems that need to be addressed. “The music ate through his skin and mixed with the nerves and small veins; he seemed to be great again, and all the other kids were around them, in a ring, clapping time” (151). Music in Updike’s story offers a juvenile escape in which nothing is resolved come closing time. 

It appears that the creative writer’s turn to music comes with a Faustian bargain. Authors get a one-time pass of unparalleled, ecstatic transcendence from their stories in exchange for the real long-term risk of the reader’s self-aggrandizing misinterpretation. The hedonistic and otherworldly appeal of music is a difficult thing to pull off responsibly in literature and in life. In Willa Cather’s Song of the Lark, Spanish Johnny is a trustworthy character, upstanding and useful in the fictional town of Moonstone. But he also has a secret, a poorly kept secret. He plays the mandolin. Beautifully.

His talents were his undoing. Periodically he went crazy. There was no other way to explain his behaviour. He was a clever workman, and, when he worked, as regular and faithful as a burro. Then some night he would fall in with a crowd at the saloon and begin to sing.  He would go on until he had no voice left, until he wheezed and rasped.  Then he would play his mandolin furiously, and drink until his eyes sank back in to his head. At last, when he was put out of the saloon at closing time, and could get nobody to listen to him, he would run away - along the railroad track, straight across the desert (Cather 1999: 40).

Spanish Johnny runs away from his stable, workaday, family routine. But after exhausting himself on one of his infamous music benders, he always returns home.  Granted, as Cather humorously writes, he returned “once with an ugly knife wound in the neck, once with a finger missing from his right hand - but he played just as well with three fingers as he had with four” (1999: 40). When he does finally return, he commits himself all the more earnestly to his more stable, more lasting personal and professional relationships. But as readers, we aren’t likely to be convinced so easily.

Cather contrasts Spanish Johnny with Wunsch, the German piano teacher. Wunsch dedicates his life to the arts, searching for beauty inside the music. He plays Gluck, even German folksongs, anything to help him discover “the secret - what makes the rose to red, the sky to blue, the man to love...” (1999: 40). But the pressure to balance his artistic sensitivities with his life in a small-town is too much to bear.  Without an outlet to express his inner music, Wunsch slowly loses his mind. He drinks heavily. In one particularly shameless night he wields an axe, looking to cut down anything in sight. “His face was snarling and savage, and his eyes were crazy” (1999: 73). In Cather’s writing, music represents something inside some people that is dangerous, raw. The solution is not to combat it or bottle it up but to give it space, work through it, put it into language. 

There is a bridge between language and music, albeit a “rickety bridge” (Forster 1964: 104) that the writer of the musical interlude is encouraged to cross. Much will depend on the abilities of the writer to convert the music back into a plot-driven language that tempers the more interesting emotions the passage has tapped. It’s a catch-22 that invariably confounds one’s readers. On the one hand, the writer forcibly leads their readers away from the euphoria of the music, back into the every-day language they so willingly left. On the other hand, if the readers give in to the music, they may find themselves too emotionally charged, like the fictional characters the author has bargained for. 


Reading Sounds of Music

Today it is commonplace to invite musicians to play at book launches and readings, or to give the microphone over to poets and writers at music venues. But this joining of performance, spoken word, and music was still novel in some of the great social movements of the 20th Century: protesting South African apartheid, European nuclear proliferation, and American sexism. In New York City, the beat writers were among the first American novelists to join forces with musicians. In 1959, Jack Kerouac and jazz musician David Amram performed together at the Brata Art Gallery. Almost immediately, musicians and writers joined forces across the country against a common enemy: American authority at home and abroad.  By the 1960s, hippie love-ins were peopled by rebels, writers, and music-makers. They came to dance and to protest, offering up flowers as readily as their middle fingers. 

“’Let’s be gay!’ sings Emilia St. Claire in Kerouac’s novel, Doctor Sax. “I want you all to be frightfully mad! I feel so the need for something different!” (1987: 138). The revolution was on and the writers and musicians were on the front line. For Kerouac the enemy was the sane people, the rational ones, the “formalistic bores”. For so many novelists of the 1960s, musicians and their legions of fans were allies, fellow critics of Modernity.

The musical interlude helped connect the literary author to the hipster protestors, however briefly. The problem, as earlier noted, is that prose can’t stay with the protestors for very long. The musical interlude is just that. Words must still win out. After the barricades are breached the story continues uninterrupted. In its protest, absolute music must also end. Like the writer, the most sublime saxophone player still eats and sleeps in this mundane world; his most interesting moments of madness must be tempered with practical skills at negotiating the everyday kind of problems. As Theodor Adorno writes, “Music shows its similarity to language once more in that, like signifying language, it is sent, failing, on a wandering journey on endless meditation to bring home the impossible” (1993: 404).

What are we to make of this delicate merger between language and music? Are they bound together by a Quixotic quest to “bring home the impossible”? Probably, but that’s also what makes the tenuous union so alluring. Not everyone agrees. William Faulkner acknowledged that there are many things composers can do better than fiction writers, “but I prefer to use words as I prefer to read rather than to listen. I prefer silence to sound, and the image produced by words occurs in silence. That is, the thunder and the music of the prose takes place in silence” (1980: 248). Faulkner reminds us that unlike the fictional characters in a musical interlude, readers of words are not, in actuality, listening to music. Even during the most raucously described musical scene, readers sit in silence, hearing nothing inside the book. Or do they? Leaving aside the entire industry of audiobooks where singing passages are often literally sung by professional singers (Irwin 2009), philosophers of literature are beginning to turn a more sensitive ear to the sounds of printed words.

Peter Kivy compares reading a book to playing the piano. Even the amateur piano player is listening to his own “performance”, says Kivy (2006: 12-13). Similarly, readers of fiction perform narratives to themselves. They are, in a real sense, hearing voices played by themselves. Readers are actors performing the author’s script in their head, so that “it seems far more plausible to conceive of novel-reading as hearing rather than seeing in the head” (2006: 124). What follows, then, is a multitude of voices dynamically and dramatically acting inside one’s head. Again, the connections to madness are disturbingly close to home, as Kivy is well aware. “This is how I think I experience the silent reading of a story; and I doubt that I am some kind of weirdo in this regard” (2006: 124).

I’m inclined to believe Kivy is right. He isn’t a weirdo. At least no more so than the rest of us writers and readers. The Beat writers were instrumental in their lyrical attention to rhythms, to the musicality of their words. Their musical interludes are meant to sound like music.  Whether it is a trumpet player blowing “confessions of his bellybottom strain,” (1999: 195) or George Shearing “playing innumerable choruses with amazing chords” (1999: 229), the reader should hear the music behind the words. But what makes Kerouac and the Beat writers so unique is that even when they are not writing about music, their words still have a musical rhythm. At times they seek to capture in words that which is behind the music.

Kerouac, like many of the Beat writers, was also a poet, so his attention to the sounds of words is not surprising. But today’s post-humanist writers are also making it their project to expand written language to include voices and sounds, specifically, non-human speech. If we think of speaking “wherein the meaning is inseparable from the sound, the shape, and the rhythm of the words,” then, as David Abram argues, “[c]ommunicative meaning is always, in its depths, affective; it remains rooted in the sensual dimension of experience, born of the body’s native capacity to resonate with other bodies and with the landscape as a whole” (1997: 74-75). The very act of writing and reading can help make connections to a larger, natural world of music with “each language a kind of song, a particular way of ‘singing the world’” (1997: 76).

Let’s briefly return to Cather’s Song of the Lark. Her main character, Thea Kronberg, leaves the piano to sing opera. Her talents are immense. Before falling off the deep end, even Wunsch observes that much from Thea’s reading out loud. 

It was a soft, rich contralto, and she read quietly; the feeling was in the voice itself, not indicated by emphasis or change of pitch. She repeated the little verses musically, like a song, and the entreaty of the flower was even softer than the rest, as the shy speech of flowers might be, and she ended with the voice suspended, almost with a rising inflection. It was a nature-voice, Wunsch told himself, breathed from the creature and apart from language, like the sound of the wind in the trees, or the murmur of water” (1999: 71).

Thea put something extra into her ordinary language, and then, “everything was more interesting and beautiful, even people” (1999: 73).

An inspired artist will look for music everywhere. As the composer John Cage noted, “there is no such thing as silence. Something is always happening that makes a sound” (Sontag 1969). If Cage is right, then, following Kivy, we can state that writing musically also sounds a note. One doesn’t need to read “out loud” to appreciate reading as a kind of not-so-silent language. What we are left with, then, is a world in which even written words produce sounds, and sounds that can be crafted into something like music by the lyrical author. When we read an author’s musical interludes we are not only acting parts, we are also making music, giving our own unique interpretations on the kinds of music the author composes. 

In conclusion, we see that when, as authors, we introduce musical interludes in our stories, they can be maddening and misunderstood, misappropriated and even misread. The move to sprinkling in music in literature is problematic because it enlists the reader in ways we can’t fully predict or protect. But what I learned through my own writing process is that a well-written musical interlude helps show us the music underneath the words and the ways it might draw us closer to the larger, “natural” world. We see how, as Hamilton argues, “music and verbal language emerge as processes that are better understood as energetic” (2008: 181).

So much, of course, depends on us, the writers. We can ignore the “processes” and continue writing in presumed silence, where nothing crackles and nothing burns. As readers, we might simply continue on with our dry gossip and brittle lives after the concert in the drawing-room. But we’ll also have to be extra vigilant. Words, like musical notes, are tiny sparks, and when written or read a certain way, there’s no telling what will catch.



Abram, D. (1997) The Spell of the Sensuous. New York, NY: Random House.

Adorno, T. (1993) Music, Language, and Composition. Tr. Susan Gillespie. Musical Quarterly 77 (3), 401-414.

Bitov, A. (2014) The Symmetry Teacher. Tr. Polly Gannon. New York, NY: Frarrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Bowman, W. (1998) Philosophical Perspectives on Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bronson, E. (2013) King of Rags. Miami, FL: Neverland.

Cather, W. (1999) The Song of the Lark. New York, NY: Vintage.

Davies, S. (2011) ‘The Experience of Music’ in Musical Understandings: and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Davies, S. (2003) Themes in the Philosophy of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Faulkner, W. (1980) Lion in the Garden: Interviews with William Faulkner (ed. J.B. Meriwether and M. Millgate). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Flaubert, G. (1892) Madame Bovary: Provincial Matters (trans. E. Marx-Aveling). London: W.W. Gibbings.

Forster, E.M. (1964) ‘Word-Making and Sound-Taking’ in Abinger Forest. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Hamilton, J. (2008) Music, Madness, and the Unworking of Language. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Hanslick, E. (1986) On the Musically Beautiful: A Contribution Towards the Revision of the Aesthetics of Music (trans. G. Payzant). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.

Hesse, H. (1964) Steppenwolf. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc.

Hoffmann, E.T.A. (1999) The Life and Opinions of Kater Murr, in The Selected Writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann (trans. L.J. Kent and E.C. Knight. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Irwin, W. (2009) Reading Audio Books. Philosophy and Literature 33 (2): 358-368.

Kerouac, J. (1987) Doctor Sax. New York, NY: Grove Press.

Kerouac, J. (1999) On the Road. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Kivy, P. (2006) The Performance of Reading: An Essay on the Philosophy of Literature. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Kivy, P. (2009) Antithetical Arts: On the Ancient Quarrel Between Literature and Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kivy P. (1997) Philosophies of Arts: An Essay in Differences. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Proust, M. (1969) Remembrance of Things Past. Vol. 1 (trans. C.K. Scott Moncrieff and F.A. Blossom. New York, NY: Random House.

Robinson, J. (2005) Deeper than Reason: Emotion and its Role in Literature, Music and Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sontag, S. (1969) ‘The Aesthetics of Silence’ in Styles of Radical Will. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Tolstoy, L. (2008) The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories (trans. D. McDuff). London: Penguin.

Updike, J. (2003) “Ace in the Hole” The Early Stories, 1953-1975. New York, NY: A.A. Knopf.



Barthes, R. (1977) Heath, S. (trans.) Image-Music-Text. New York, NY: Hill and Wang.

Berlin, E. (1994) King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and his Era. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Forbes, C. (2008) Introducing Bert Williams: Burnt Cork, Broadway, and the Story of America’s First Black Star. New York, NY: Civitas.

Gracyk, T. (2014) The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music. New York, NY: Routledge.

Jacobs, A. (2011) The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Johnson, J.W. (1995) The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. New York, NY: Dover.

Kay, J. (1998) Trumpet: A Novel. London: Picador.

Ondaatje, M. (1998) Coming Through Slaughter. Toronto: Vintage.


Eric Bronson’s first work of historical fiction, King of Rags (Neverland) was published in 2013. He teaches in the Humanities Department at York University in Toronto, Canada. In his academic life he’s edited five books in the Philosophy and Popular Culture series first with Open Court and later with Wiley-Blackwell. His work focuses on the philosophy of literature and the limits of language. His first world religions textbook, Enchanted Wisdom: Enduring Philosophies of World Religions (Rock's Mills), is due out in 2020.