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Borrowed FormsThe Music and Ethics of Transnational Fiction$
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Kathryn Lachman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781781380307

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781380307.001.0001

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date: 23 October 2017

Glenn Gould and the Birth of the AuthorVariation and Performance in Nancy Huston's Les variations Goldberg

Glenn Gould and the Birth of the AuthorVariation and Performance in Nancy Huston's Les variations Goldberg

Chapter:
(p.89) Chapter Three Glenn Gould and the Birth of the AuthorVariation and Performance in Nancy Huston's Les variations Goldberg
Source:
Borrowed Forms
Author(s):

Kathryn Lachman

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781781380307.003.0004

This chapter examines the relationship between performance and authority in Nancy Huston's debut novel, Les variations Goldberg. The novel adopts the formal structure of J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations: an aria, thirty contrasting variations, and the return of the opening aria. While critics have remarked on Huston's impressive engagement with musical form and bilingualism, they have invariably neglected to consider her work in relation to the controversial ideas of her compatriot, Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. Gould famously withdrew from the concert stage at the peak of his career and upheld recording as more democratic than live performance. Huston's novel suggests that Gould's revolutionary understanding of performance anticipated important shifts in literary theory concerning the relation among author, text, and reader—ideas that were expressed in such seminal essays as Roland Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” and realized in the nouveau roman. Situated at the interstices between music and literature, Huston's novel calls attention to the changing attitudes to performance and authority in both fields, and points to an unacknowledged but fertile exchange across disciplinary borders.

Keywords:   Goldberg Variations, Nancy Huston, Glenn Gould, Roland Barthes, performance, variation form, bilingualism, authority, Bach

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