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Title:Angelic airs/subversive songs: Music as cultural discourse in Victorian literature and society
Author(s):Clapp, Alisa Marie
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Anderson, Amanda S.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Literature, English
Abstract:This study extends the critical discussion on nineteenth-century aesthetics to include music, a rarely studied yet vital Victorian artform. I argue that Victorians concurrently idealized music as a transcendent corrective to social ills and feared it as a subversive context for these ills. In Chapter One, I examine Victorian constructions of music to promote patriotism, Christianity, culture, and domestic harmony, and suggest how often these goals were undermined by political tensions in song texts or "immoral sensuality" promoted by the "spectacle" of live music-making. Chapter Two explores representations of music by a variety of Victorian novelists and poets.
Turning to specific writers and musical genres, I first examine how Elizabeth Gaskell authenticates the idealization of folk music when depicting folk-song entertainment strengthening communities of women; she does so, however, by expunging authentic, rebellious lyrics (Chapter Three). Thomas Hardy's novels depict the Darwinian sexual component of folk music being stifled by middle-class prudery, challenging by extension the middle-class agenda of Folk-Song Revivalists (Chapter Four).
One of the period's most musically engaged writers, George Eliot complicates Victorian idealizations of religious music in her first novel, Adam Bede. Eliot overtly honors the Methodist hymn tradition through her preacher, Dinah Morris, yet shows how easily her hymns are altered into love songs, suggesting the unstable nature of religious music (Chapter Five). In The Mill on the Floss, Eliot depicts Maggie Tulliver as an idealized pastoral musician who is eventually overwhelmed by middle-class aesthetics which position the pastoral tradition firmly within a class system, not Nature, and women, like Maggie, as the object of pastoral love songs (Chapter Six). In my last chapter, I read against common interpretations of Daniel Deronda by arguing that Gwendolen Harleth's musical ambitions are thwarted by the musician-hero, Herr Klesmer, who yet denies his profession's close ties with financial success and sexual appeal, as Eliot ultimately becomes disillusioned with idealized music.
Issue Date:1996
Rights Information:Copyright 1996 Clapp, Alisa Marie
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9702482
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9702482

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