Edward Elgar and English nationalism : imperial, chivalrous and pastoral visions
This thesis is a study of Edward Elgar as a national figure. and as an icon of English nationalism in the late-Victorian and Edwardian eras. Within music history studies, particularly those of the twentieth century, the close relationship between Elgar and Britain's imperial past has led to the subjugation of his ceremonial music in order for a more acceptable national significance, based around images of rural England, to be reclaimed for him. This study suggests that the anxiety over Elgar's nationalism, which led to a canon of 'acceptable' works, has resulted in the neglect of significant influences on the composer that found frequent expression in his music, and which were related to the spread of national character in his contemporary society. Therefore the three main areas of consideration aim to redress the balance by exploring his national and imperial music, the significance of chivalry as a social code for Englishmen. and the spread of a rural nationalism particularly through a popular middle class preoccupation with an idealised vision of the English countryside. In each of these areas the social, artistic and political climate of England are of central importance as they provide a background against which many of Elgar's works. previously considered to be 'unimportant'. can assume a new significance. Thus the ways in which the social contexts can be seen to have influenced Elgar's life and music are discussed in some detail: conversely the influence Elgar hadin shaping notions of national character through his music are also considered. This thesis contends that the national context was of central importance to the professional and personal life of Elgar. and it is clear that he was engaged in a process of cultural exchange: a reciprocal relationship between artist and public that fostered and perpetuated the myths of nation.