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  You are in: Home > Literary Criticism > In Search of Vinteuil  

In Search of Vinteuil
Music Writing and the Literary Act of Creation

James Holden

James Holden was born in Ashford and educated at Loughborough University. He is co-author (with Dr Simon King) of an experimental work of science-fiction criticism entitled Conceptual Breakthrough: Two Experiments In SF Criticism Star/Alien (2007). Dr Holden has also guest edited a special issue of the online journal Writing Technologies on the work of Martin Heidegger. He plays the piano.


Positioning himself as autobiographer, literary critic and pianist, James Holden presents an homage to Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). “One night I came across the recording of a piano work that I had composed whilst still at school. The strange thing was, I had no recollection of it whatsoever. As I sat and listened to it, it revealed to me, or so it seemed, a self that I had no connection with and a past that I had not lived.” In Search of Vinteuil is an attempt to gain access to all of the lost and impossible experiences the music piece pointed towards.

A first critical act is to turn to the passages in Proust’s long novel that deal with music, focusing in particular on the descriptions of the fictional composer Vinteuil’s ‘Sonata for piano and violin’ and ‘Septet’. Analysis reveals the role of memory in musical appreciation, and music’s ability to lay before us different worlds. Armed with this engagement, literary tools emerge to understand this personal, uncanny experience and how to respond to it. After an original critical response to both Proust’s novel, and classical works where themes of memory, lost chances, music and piano predominate, James Holden moves from the role of literary critic to amateur pianist, as he describes his first proper return to the keyboard in almost a decade and his hesitant steps towards the composition of a new work. This musical experience finally promises to bring out the psychological mechanisms inherent in the acts of listening to and playing music.

This highly original and compelling work represents a significant contribution to literary scholarship.

Series Editor’s Preface
The Critical Inventions Series

Textual Engagement
Prelude: Composing Work
Piece Number 1: Vinteuil's Sonata
Interlude: On Deafness
Piece Number 2: Vinteuil's Septet
Coda: Music Regained


Reviews to follow


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
192 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
November 2010
Hardback Price:
£39.95 / $59.95

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