Absolute music and the death of desire: Beethoven, Schopenhauer, Wagner and Eliot's Four Quartets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The influence of Beethoven on Eliot's Four Quartets is mediated by Wagner and Schopenhauer and relates fundamentally to the philosopher's understanding of instrumental music as expressing a universalised and abstract emotion. Schopenhauer's aesthetics are intimately connected with Wagner's treatment of the idea of absolute music – a discussion that begins in his early prose writings and culminates in his essay 'Beethoven' (1870). At the origin of Wagner's thinking about absolute music is a striking metaphor: that of Beethoven as Columbus, exploring the sea of absolute music. This metaphor is found at the heart of Four Quartets, powerfully connecting the poem with Beethoven's music, and with a Schopenhauerian aesthetics that understands this music as inhabiting a realm beyond human affect and desire.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-93
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Volume40
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

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