The Diva in the Garden: Operatic Voice, Sexuate Difference, and Pastoralism, 1850--1923 Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Lerner, Shannon
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
  • This dissertation explores the operatic diva in American public culture focusing on the period of 1850—1923. As women, divas had to balance their success with the image of the wife, the mother, and the woman as connected to nature. The core questions for this study are twofold. 1. How are representations of the diva as woman mediated by representations of women being closer to nature? 2. How do these representations figure in the diva’s access to culture, and by extension, what do these representations say about the place of women in relationship to culture and technology? To answer these questions, I take up representations of the diva in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century America, tracking the ways that the persona of the diva is articulated within a popular cultural movement of their era, pastoralism. Engaging pastoral symbols of the wilderness, the garden, and the machine, divas negotiated women’s sentimental relegation to nature as a means of navigating modern discourses as regarding working women as successful individuals. Divas first occupied pastoral aesthetic themes as the sublime as the awe people felt in natural spaces through the beauty of the divas’ voices. But as the diva’s place in public culture evolved, the diva transitioned from the natural sublime to the technological sublime by highlighting the artifice in contemporary vocal technique. This transition paradoxically refigured the diva into a simultaneous object of natural bliss and technological horror. The technological sublime created space for divas to move away from the sacrifice and self-destruction of a Romantic narrative about prima donnas, to instead turn to a sexuated, singularly-pleasured focus on divas’ well-being and self-care. To make this case, I will take up three case studies which transition divas from the natural sublime to the technological sublime: Jenny Lind, Adelina Patti, and Geraldine Farrar.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Lundberg, Christian
  • Alexander Craft, Renee
  • Fauser, Annegret
  • Cante, Richard C.
  • King Watts, Eric
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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