Theses Doctoral

Eloquence and Music: the Querelle des Bouffons in Rhetorical Context

Young, Benjamin

This dissertation examines the way in which the querelle des bouffons was conceived as abiding by the principles of eloquence, using previous rhetorical quarrels (including the Ancients and Moderns, and Atticism versus Asianism), as well as the fundamental tenets of both eloquence and music, to frame a wide-ranging debate that ultimately rethinks the two arts' roles. The supporters of Italian music (known as the coin de la reine) and the partisans of French music (known as the coin du roi) adhere to this common context, while defining the selection of its essential components, as well as their makeup, according to the values of their given side.

I contend that it is the relationship between eloquence and music that allows the quarrel's thinkers—which include Rousseau, Diderot, Grimm, D'Alembert and Rameau, as well as lesser-known figures such as Castel, Caux de Cappeval, Cazotte and Jourdan—to engage in complex intellectual explorations that use the quarrel's innate divisiveness as a means of creating meaningful dialog. Through a system of multi-layering and intricate referencing—and based on a valuing of the essential and an evacuation of the ornamental—, the quarrel's texts themselves determine the debate's corpus, hinting at a new direction for this type of public discourse.

The dissertation aims to show that the resulting theoretical considerations use the pamphlets' broad dualities of French and Italian, modern and ancient, harmony and melody, etc., to foster internal multiplicities in the development of subtext and cross-referencing, yielding a new collective, written conversation that achieves a form of musical eloquence.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Young_Benjamin_Eloquence_and_Music.pdf Young_Benjamin_Eloquence_and_Music.pdf application/pdf 25.1 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
French and Romance Philology
Thesis Advisors
Force, Pierre
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 11, 2013