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Title: Irony and ambiguity in Beethoven's string quartets
Author: Liddle, J. A.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis explores the view that many of the difficulties and apparent eccentricities of Beethoven’s Late Quartets (particularly Op. 130, 132, 133 and 135) may be understood in terms of irony, in the sense that it appears in the philosophical and aesthetic writings of the early German Romantics. A chain of influence is demonstrated between Beethoven and Friedrich Schlegel’s philosophy of Romantic irony, through significant inter-personal relationships as well as through Beethoven’s exposure to Schlegel’s written works. This connection provides a firm hermeneutic basis for considering the composer’s work in terms of irony. The A minor Quartet Op. 132 is given as an example of Beethoven’s Romantic irony, and considered in terms of the constitutive elements of Schlegel’s Romantic irony – Paradox, Parabasis and Self-consciousness. However, this thesis also demonstrates that the irony within the Late Quartets goes beyond the confines of Romantic irony. The paradoxical structures of the Cavatina and Grosse Fuge are considered as examples of “general” or “existential” irony – a form closely related to Schlegelian irony. Moreover, the replacement finale of the Op. 130 quartet is shown to constitute a striking instance of satire: a bitter ironic comment upon the musical conservatism of Beethoven’s critics. This thesis therefore explores the philosophical background and the nature of irony itself, relating all of its forms to one underlying structure and to one fundamental process. This process – “objectification” – is derived from the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, and forms the theoretical basis for the structural approach of the analyses of irony within the thesis. The thesis also considers the relationship between irony and related phenomena such as wit and humour. It suggests that the differences between these concepts correspond to those between Beethoven’s Romantic irony and the wit and humour of his predecessors. Finally, the relationship between irony and ambiguity is also considered.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available