Mar 102010

I am back from the dead, er, I mean packet flu, er, I mean the really enjoyable weekend I had reading through your wonderful packets.

I was reading a bit in The Portable Nietzsche last night; Jacob is writing an essay about Beyond Good and Evil. Anyway I noticed a passage I had marked years ago, and it reminds me to remind you that technique can be discovered anywhere.

This is a paragraph from Walter Kaufman’s introduction to The Portable Nietzsche.

Taking their cues from Wagner’s leitmotifs, Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig have pointed out, in connection with their remarkable German translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, that the style of the Old Testament often depends on Leitworte, words which are central and particularly emphasized in one passage and then picked up again elsewhere, thus establishing an unobtrusive cross reference–an association which, even if only dimly felt, adds dimension to meaning. Perhaps no major writer is as biblical in this respect as Nietzsche.

And here’s Kristian Evensen’s site explaining Wagner’s leitmotifs. Leitmotifs in Der Ring des Nibelungen – an introduction

See also Wagner’s Use of Leitmotifs on The Horn.


  2 Responses to “Leitwort, a technique”

  1. You, Doug, once told me that the fiction reader should experience the unexpected every 3-5 lines. This unexpected needn’t be cataclysmic , but simply a bit of dialogue, a thought, an image, a figure of speech, a word…to keep the reader’s synapses firing.

    This is pragmatic advice, but tricky to embody without a sincere and almost intuitive understanding of rhetorical style.

    The leitworte tip can help with this. Different manifestations of a repeated word, set phrase, image, or symbol creates rhythm in both the surface and deep structure. This rhythm can be the unexpected–think turnip.

    But, I see this repetition as supporting theme in a linear fashion. By considering image patterning and the expanding symbol, the repetition suggested by leitworte(leitmotif) becomes multi-dimensional, which in turn suggests a multi-sensory experience for the reader. Which is the goal, isn’t it?

    All that said, a turnip on page 25 is still a turnip on page 177.

    • Michele, I thought of you when I posted this because of the musical connection. I was half-expecting you to say something about that.

      FYI (everyone), Michele wrote her VCFA critical thesis, in part, on the similarities between certain devices used in composing music and fiction.


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