Leitmotiv, Leitmotif (2241 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

  • Gerhard P. Knapp (University of Utah)


The German term Leitmotiv (leading or guiding motif) has long been used for musical and textual analysis and has found its way into the English, French and other languages as leitmotif or leitmotiv. More recently the term has also been introduced to film studies, inspired by the work of directors Luchino Visconti, Ingmar Bergman and many others. Perhaps for the first time in print the German musicologist Friedrich Wilhelm Jähns (1871) applied it to the repetition and modification of certain themes in the music of Carl Maria von Weber. Leitmotiv was established as a musicological term by Hans Paul von Wolzogen in his writings on Richard Wagner’s operas (1887ff.) to designate recurring themes, melodies or …

Knapp, Gerhard P.. "Leitmotiv, Leitmotif". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 29 January 2004
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=1355, accessed 27 October 2016.]