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Music and the Irish Imagination

Thierry Dubost
Alexandra Slaby

Writing Irish music

The Art of Irish Counterpointing: William Trevor’s “A Day”

Claire Majola-Leblond


Le but de cette étude de la nouvelle de William Trevor, « A Day », est de tenter de découvrir comment la conscience d’un mode d’écriture musicale à l’œuvre dans un texte peut aiguiser notre écoute et notre perception des mots sur le papier. Ainsi le contrepoint, forme essentielle quoique souvent secrète de la musique irlandaise, se révélera-t-il un précieux instrument d’analyse littéraire.

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Extrait du texte

Anyone faced with After Rain1 cannot but be amazed by the multiplicity of voices and perspectives, as well as by the complexity of their arrangement: successive viewpoints, overlapping discourses, perceptual embeddings, verbal pursuits, alternatively harmonious or dissonant. In music, the phenomenon is known as counterpoint and the term most readily comes to mind to try and give a formal account of recurrent stylistic choices undoubtedly motivated by the infinitely complex and painful web of generational interaction or love interplay to be found in Trevor’s short stories.

Yet, when one mentions counterpoint to Irish music specialists2 the reaction is more than often surprise. Traditional Irish music is not thought of as being contrapuntal; most airs, reels or jigs consist in two sections of eight measures each, which are repeated as many times as necessary for the purpose of the dance. They form an AA/BB structure sometimes to be found with an accompaniment which is harmonic, chordal...


Claire Majola-Leblond is an Associate Professor at the université Jean Moulin-Lyon III where she teaches Irish literature and discourse analysis. She has a special interest in contemporary short stories and more generally in the relationship between writing and the arts, point of view in fiction and the aesthetics of reception. She wrote her PhD on the question of point of view in Dylan Thomas’s short stories and has published articles on J. M. Synge, B. MacLaverty, J. McGahern, D. Madden, C. McCann. She is currently working on William Trevor’s stories.

© Presses universitaires de Caen, 2013

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