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Title: Love, Lieder, and the Gendered Poetics of Musical Transcendence, c.1780-1850
Authors: Parton, Christopher
Advisors: Heller, Wendy B
Contributors: Music Department
Keywords: femininity
music aesthetics
Subjects: Music history
German literature
Issue Date: 2024
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines the poetics of musical transcendence in German art songs (Lieder) ofthe early nineteenth century. For the German early-Romantics, musical transcendence became a central metaphysical concern, since it was through music that one could experience a unity with the “Absolute,” a higher realm of reality. Studies of this phenomenon so far have focused almost exclusively on instrumental music and the prestige of “ineffability,” assuming that only music’s sublime transcendence of earthly language enabled a glimpse of the Absolute. Yet this scholarship fails to account for the larger histories and poetics of transcendence that informed early-Romantic musical thought. This dissertation challenges the orthodox historiography of nineteenth-century music aesthetics through the analysis of contemporaneous Lieder. I argue that the metaphysics of musical transcendence was in fact predicated on sexual difference and desire, as revealed by the literary and musical poetics of the idealized beloved. Increasingly depicted with musical metaphors and auditory imagery, this forever-distant beloved, I demonstrate, represented the prospect of transcendence thematized in thousands of songs. In each chapter of this dissertation, song, as a forever-incomplete unity of words andmusic, exposes the irresolvable dialectics that drive the desire for transcendence. I move from the sonic aporias in the German reinvention of Petrarch’s Laura, through a re-evaluation of the ironic desires that underwrite Hoffmann’s famous essays on Beethoven, to the gendered re-encoding of floral poetics in the Lieder of Clara Schumann. These chapters are interspersed with “interludes”, which consider how the male-authored poetics of love and music impacted the music and careers of Maria Theresia Paradis and Fanny Hensel. In the conclusion, I reflect on the intellectual legacies of transcendence in light of the renewed reckoning with classical music’s racist and sexist patterns of exclusion. Transcendence, after all, is the metaphysics of German musical universalism that annihilates acceptable difference while excluding incommensurable otherness. Through a discussion of three recent approaches to performing Franz Schubert’s Winterreise, I consider how we can continue to love this music without making that love toxic.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Music

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