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"Something lies beyond the Scene [seen]" of Façade: Sitwell, Walton and Kristeva's Semiotic

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Abstract:

The modernist writer Edith Sitwell's collaboration with composer William Walton on a group of poems set to music, called Façade (1922–23), offers a productive text with which to explore the connections between the twin signifying practices of language and music. Julia Kristeva's notions of "semi-otic" and "symbolic" provide a frame for discussing the specific relation of these apparently separate discourses. Using the form of the lullaby, one of Sitwell's poems in the collection of Façade suggests a connection between the aurality of language and the aurality of music. Sound constitutes a linking root for the two forms and, in evasion of the potential control offered by sight, seems to introduce an intimate connection with the performing and listening body. Kristeva's description of the maternal body as a sight for the production of sound, which both introduces and disrupts language, finds a parallel in Sitwell's poem ("lullaby") set to music. Both the poem and its musical setting play with the boundary between meaning and nonsense, evading the direct representational function of language.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2002

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