Author ORCID Identifier

Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Comparative Literature

Committee Member(s)

Matthew Senior
Brian Alegant


Parasite, Music, Multimedia, Posthumanism, Poetics, Noise, French poetry, Poetry and music, Contemporary art, Derrida, Poststructuralism, Michel Serres, Mallarmé, Pierre Boulez, Orphandrift, Georges Aperghis


Why do we make analogies? The standard definition suggests “[a] comparison between two things, typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification” (Oxford Languages); an analogy is when something borrows another vocabulary, another set of terms, or another paradigm, to facilitate a deeper understanding. But here, I argue that analogy is more than a didactic tool for making explanations more convenient: rather, analogy is the essential way that we understand ourselves in relation to others—for my purposes, how artists understand their own medium in relation to other mediums. Specifically, I use the concept of analogy to explore the encounter between music and language; I take as my starting point the French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé, one of the major poets in France at the time of his death in 1898, with a legacy which resonates today in poststructuralism and experimental poetry. Mallarmé interests me because he exemplifies an analogical approach to understanding poetry: in order to articulate his poetics, Mallarmé found inspiration in a diverse array of mediums from dance to mime to acting, and most importantly, in music. This project adopts a three-part approach, investigating the encounter between music and language first from the perspective of language, then from the perspective of music, and finally examining art which reconciles music and language in a more liminal status. Chapter 1 discusses how Mallarmé’s ideal language parasites music: he uses music to articulate the terms of his ideal language, but in doing so silences music, removing its status as actual sound. Chapter 2 explores how composer Pierre Boulez turns this parasitism around, using music as a parasite on language: Boulez sets Mallarmé's poetry, but in doing so, he renders it into sound, deprivileging its linguistic qualities while embedding them into the musical structure. Chapter 3 explores contemporary manifestations of music/language art with composer Georges Aperghis and Orphan Drift, an interdisciplinary art collective; I will discuss how it is possible to create a work of art which successfully blends language and music by turning the artwork itself into a host for parasitic infections from both mediums. I conclude by examining my own creative work and how it seeks to explore the relationship between music and language, hopefully suggesting future potentialities for interdisciplinary artmaking. Interludes will separate each chapter, linking them together by pivoting the parasitic dynamic.