Theses Doctoral

"Modernity's hearing loss" : Beethoven, romantic critique, and the music of the literary

Salinas, Edgardo

This dissertation explores the relationship between the critique of Jena romanticism and Beethoven's "neue Manier" in the context of the material conditions that shaped European modernity around 1800. By taking as a case study the piano sonatas Op. 31, each chapter examines from a different perspective what represents a key historical moment in the genealogy of the modern notions of musical form and experience. The underlying thesis is that instrumental music was legitimized via a massive epistemic transfer of values from the domain of the literary. From its integration into the economy of the literary, instrumental music acquired an unstable epistemic condition introduced in Chapter 2 as the "materiality of the literary." The theory of romantic irony serves as a methodological point of entry to scrutinize how musical practice, literary discourse, and socio-historical transformations collided and converged to reframe aesthetic experience. Through their critique, the Jena romantics complicated the relationship between the generic and the particular and upheld the preeminence of practice over theory in the art of modernity. Tracing connections between Beethoven's music and the literary, Chapter 4 suggests a structural homology between the novel, as paradigmatic form of literary modernity, and sonata form, as the main compositional strategy of the classical style. Both forms are seen as practices driven by a principle of openness toward difference that emerges within the formation of the literary. The formal approach Beethoven initiates with the sonata forms fashioned in Op. 31 will be recast in Chapter 5 as a self-reflexive manifestation of that principle within the interpretive framework offered by romantic irony. By virtue of the formalist thought of the literary, Beethoven's instrumental forms became aesthetic symbols of the modern self.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Sisman, Elaine R.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 25, 2011