French authors in the eighteenth century traditionally used music to enhance literary love scenes. Jean-Jacques Rousseau considerably expanded contemporary notions of music s expressive power, yet distinguished between the capacity of different nations and sexes to wield it. Rousseau s controversial statements led his readers to interrogate the relationship between music, meaning, and morality. They depicted their resistance to his claims in musical tableaux, or musical performances staged for a beholder inscribed within the text. Tili Boon Cuille's Narrative Interludes chronicles the emergence of the musical tableau in French literature.
Spanning the latter half of the eighteenth century, Cuille brings the cultural discourse on music and musicians to bear on the works of Diderot, Cazotte, Beaumarchais, Charriere, Cottin, Krudener, and Stael. She turns attention from the representation of music to its moral repercussions, from aesthetic innovation to social resistance, and from national to gender politics. Juxtaposing pre-eminent and popular writers, Cuille reads their fictional works in light of their treatises on art and society, exploring the significance of musical tableaux that have previously fallen outside the scope of literary analysis but that revolutionized the form and function of music in the text."