This week sees the publication of Dr Nathan Waddell's new book, Moonlighting: Beethoven and Literary Modernism (Oxford University Press).
The book offers a new and original account of how early twentieth-century Anglo-American modernist writers were influenced by the life and music of one of modernity’s most important and most celebrated figures: the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).
Moonlighting isn’t a book that compares music and literature in the expected sense—that is, by charting how a modernist novel resembles a symphony, or how a modernist poem reads like a quartet sounds.
Instead, it looks at how modernist writers drew on and used conventional ways of talking and writing about Beethoven to say important things not only about Beethoven’s rebelliousness, but also about the very rhetorical means with which the rebelliousness of Beethoven acquired legendary status.
Once we understand that, we gain a much fuller understanding of how writers like E. M. Forster, Aldous Huxley, Wyndham Lewis, Dorothy Richardson, Rebecca West, and Virginia Woolf were creatively and characterfully attuned to the categories through which cultural icons, and Beethoven in particular, acquire their prestige. Moonlighting tells the story of how and why this matters.