The rhetoric of sexuality in the age of Brahms and Wagner Public Deposited

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Last Modified
  • March 22, 2019
  • McManus, Laurie
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music
  • As an enduring theme in histories of nineteenth-century music, the Brahms-Wagner debate often takes the problem of form as its main thesis: it has long been cast as the struggle of absolute versus program music. Recent musicology has focused on its intersections with nationalism and politics, historicism, and the nascent fields of music history and theory. Employing a discourse analysis that reveals overlooked cultural influences, I have examined the debate through the lens of sexual rhetoric employed in music criticism, such as Wagnerian attacks on the chaste Brahms, or the accusations of wanton lust in Wagner. By incorporating documents that relate music explicitly to sexuality, gender roles, and notions of the body, I argue that we reassess the debate as a fundamental struggle between sensuality (Sinnlichkeit) and purity (Reinheit) in music. This global approach extends the debate beyond traditional generic boundaries and modes of scholarly inquiry, and contextualizes it against cultural ideas of sexuality, purity, and the women's emancipation movement.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Music."
  • Finson, Jon W.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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