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Title: A comparative study of words and music in Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tiresias (1947) : constructions of gender and sexuality
Author: Purvis, Philip
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2011
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Writing in 2000, Daniel Albright argues that the opera Les Mamelles de Tiresias (1947) by Francis Poulenc (l899- 1963) is an exemplar of surrealist ' dissonance' between words and music. Poulenc, Albright argues, consciously 'violates' the dramatic trajectory of the words by providing music which 'disables' the verbal systems of meaning which form the opera's zany plot (Albright, 2000:300). This thesis provides a reading of the libretto and music of the opera via its important thematic notions of gender and sexuality to argue for a reassessment of Albright's findings. By placing gender and sexuality as points of 'enabling similarity' between words and music after Nicholas Cook (1998: 70). an approach is found which is sensitive towards the verbal and musical developments of the plot in equal measure and also acknowledges that the syntactic/semantic production of meaning in music is based on different referential tropes from that of words. Drawing on postmodem critiques of the human subject following Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick et al. in combination with a topical analysis of musical signifiers of gender and sexuality (which are identified via work by Susan McClary, Carolyn Abbate, and Michel Poizat among others), I find that both words and music work together to confuse and complicate the 'feminine', 'masculine', ' heterosexual' and 'homosexual' identities of the characters in the opera. Interpretative readings are expanded by references to aspects of Poulenc's biography and to the politically turbulent World War II and post-war environments in which the opera was composed (1938-1945) and premiered (I 947). To conclude, four main attributes of the word-music relations in the opera which have been illuminated by the emphasis on gender and sexuality-primacy, layering, unravelling and parody-are identified.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available