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Composing the body: narrative in the age of improvisation, 1770-1867

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Title: Composing the body: narrative in the age of improvisation, 1770-1867
Author(s): Bechtold, Rebeccah
Director of Research: Loughran, Trish
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Loughran, Trish
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Murison, Justine; Chai, Leon; Wood, Gillen
Department / Program: English
Discipline: English
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): American Literature sentimentality music.
Abstract: This dissertation analyzes how antebellum authors appropriated music—as bodily sentiment, scientific theory, and performative practice—to negotiate the social tensions that afflicted nineteenth century American culture. Drawing on a diverse archive of primary materials, I argue that music’s development into an improvisational aesthetic inspired sentimental authors to integrate musical form and theory into their compositional practices in ways that allowed them to explore the limits and freedoms of feeling. Pro-slavery southerners like Caroline Lee Hentz and Augusta Evans recognized a resemblance between European improvisation and the formless melodies of slave songs, forcing them to try to distinguish a white, sentimental musicality from “the wild, sad strains” of the slave. But other authors, including Herman Melville and Lydia Maria Child, took up the intersection of white and black musicality to recommend a new form of sympathetic listening, thereby challenging the nation’s dominate attitudes toward race.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Rebeccah Bechtold
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08

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