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Title: The woman singer and her song in French and German prose fiction (circa 1790-1848)
Author: Effertz, Julia Irmgard
ISNI:       0000 0004 2668 8608
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis examines the woman singer and her song as a literary motif in French and German prose fiction between 1790 and 1848. In the form of selected case studies, I establish how, for some authors of this period, the singer constituted an important cipher for female artistic empowerment. Although substantial research on the cross-fertilization between music and literature exists, this specific motif has so far received very little attention in Comparative Literature studies. Additionally, literary critics have not previously explored the potential of the woman singer beyond the stereotypes associated with woman and song. By outlining the socio­cultural background of singers at the time in chapter 2, and the theoretical context of idealized female song in chapter 3, I first show the strong ideological dimension of the singer as a character of ambivalence. I then investigate how literature responded to this theme, and how key authors developed the character as a reflection on aesthetic ideals pertaining to female musicality, and as a potentially subversive, empowered figure of female song performance. In chapter 4 I examine the importance of early singer archetypes created by Goethe and Madame de Stael, both of whose visions of musically inspired artistic genius paved the way for subsequent literary treatments of the singer and her increasing professionalism and artistic agency. In Chapter 5 I show to what extent marginalized authors like Caroline Fischer wrote explicitly against the cliche of the musical feminine ideal, proposing different views on female agency through art, whereas in chapter 7 I demonstrate how women authors of the July Monarchy period, such as Taunay, Sand, Ulliac and Desbordes-Valmore, wrote strong narratives revolving around the life and genius of the prima donna singer. On the other hand, in chapter 6 I show that, although couching their narratives in seemingly more traditional, patriarchal imagery, male authors like Hoffmann, Balzac and Berlioz implicitly criticized the idealism associated with both music and woman and looked for narrative ways to portray the woman singer as an artist who maintains autonomy and integrity. My conclusion emphasizes that through their unique treatment of the woman singer, authors contributed to a complex, continuous discourse on woman and music which went beyond the stereotypical nature of cultural and aesthetic paradigms of female song.
Supervisor: Worth, Valerie ; Aubert, Nathalie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral