Multimedia in the Long Eighteenth Century (MMLEC) seeks to quantify the frequency with which musical paratext, including both lyrics and musical notation, appear in English- and French-language novels published between 1688 and 1815. The project is led by Scott Sanders, Assistant Professor of French, with a team of librarians, technologists, programmers, and student research assistants.
MMLEC specifically attends to the sounds that musical passages evoke in print because the sound itself contributes to a reader’s interpretation of the text. By analyzing a large dataset of over a century’s worth of texts, MMLEC promises a more granular view of the evolution of musical scenes in novels. With the hope of uncovering new genealogies of these scenes, the project seeks to trace the origins and evolution of different forms of musical representation in literature from eighteenth-century novels with musical scores to nineteenth-century representations of music as a trope of the ineffable. In essence, music is not a template for sound, but a metaphorical representation. MMLEC could offer empirical data to re-examine these two forms of musical representations — scores and tropes — as well as possibly discover new forms of musical representation and contextualize these representations in terms of time period and frequency.