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Musical dreams: Examining musical elements in Thomas Bernhard’s “Reunion” and "Goethe Dies”

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Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
This thesis provides a reading of Thomas Bernhard’s prose understood as prosaic music. Comparing Ludwig Wittgenstein’s struggle to write philosophy with Bernhard’s use of literary-musical elements, I shed light on how Bernhard’s disturbing stories, inhabited by unlikable characters and composed in a fragmented, alienating, figurative style, create not only a joyful, but meaningful experience, because Bernhard’s linguistic music-making illuminates the background of destructive and annihilated lives. Studies of Bernhard’s work that only focus on direct structural similarities between music and literature, or only on the historical or biographical narrative, neglect the intrinsic importance of the aesthetic of his musical prose and its comic, mocking musical form. People, places and memories are foregrounded as musical leitmotifs. Exaggerations, repetitions and comic authorship result in skilfully designed, intimate musical dreaming. Bernhard’s stories “Reunion” and “Goethe Dies” are examined with reference to other stories in Chapters entitled “Welcome to Bernhard’s World”, “Whereof One Cannot Speak: Catastrophes in Thomas Bernhard’s ‘Reunion’”, “Whereof One Cannot Speak, Thereof One Must Make Music,” “‘Goethe Dies:’ A Wittgenstein Ensemble,” and conclude with “Composing Wittgenstein.”
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Mirhady, David
Thesis advisor: Zaslove, Jerald
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