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Title: Music and childhood in French culture, 1880-1914
Author: Coombes, Timothy F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 4971
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Literary scholars have discussed extensively how ideas about childhood were an important imaginative resource in Romantic and modernist thought. Much research in the humanities has considered how art and literature have reflected and influenced the attitudes towards childhood that have been prevalent at particular times and in particular places. This thesis examines the ways in which music composed and performed in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France seems to have played a significant role in exhibiting, and perhaps in shaping, contemporaneous understandings of childhood. My study examines four distinct but closely related strands of French culture, in which the idea of childhood was a formative element in the creation, performance and reception of music. The subjects of the four main chapters are: the contrasting but mutually illuminating representations of childhood in two operas - Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel and Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande - which had their first Paris performances in quick succession at the Opéra-Comique; the collections of pièces enfantines produced for the piano sheet-music market, a market which was sensitive to the prevailing social and political ideals of the Third Republic; a controversial ballet staging of Fauré's Dolly in 1913, which embodied a perception of the 'childlike' as a corporeal quality; and the relation of Debussy's La Boîte à joujoux and two songs by Ravel to artistic and philosophical discourses about the image of the toy. Collectively, these chapters consider music's contribution to several important understandings of childhood in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century culture. These include the use of the idea of childhood to give shape to the notion of human interiority, and to stand for an ideal mode of perception which the adult might reclaim through art.
Supervisor: Grimley, Daniel M. Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available