Vortrag – James G. Kennaway: The Female Ear: The History of Music as a Danger for Women’s Nerves, 03.12.2008, Wien

Vortrag im Rahmen von Geschichte am Mittwoch
Ort: Universität Wien – Institut für Geschichte der Universität Wien, HS 45
Zeit: Mittwoch, 3. Dezember 2008, 18.00 c.t. – 20.00 Uhr
Moderation: Wolfang Schmale
Despite (or perhaps because of) the supposed affinity between music and the feminine, women have often assumed to be more vulnerable to the power of music than men, especially the “wrong kind” of music. Neo-Platonic and Puritan motifs of musical sensuality’s dangers to self-control and morality among female listeners are a recurrent theme in the history of music. Crucially, this assumption took a more medical turn in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as ideas about female moral and physical weakness were associated with the nerve paradigm of understanding the body. The female ear became the entrance to a nervous system that could be damaged by music with dangerous medical and moral consequences. This paper will outline the rise of the nerve paradigm in music aesthetics and in medicine in the Enlightenment and the way that changes in thinking about sensibility, class, aesthetics and gender around 1800 created a fully-fledged discourse of music as a Zivilisationskrankheit. Music’s potential power to subvert female self-control, notably in sexual matters, made it not only a danger to individual health but possibly also to society. Some cultural commentators argued that music could be a cause or a symptom of effeminate mass neurasthenia and a broader cultural malaise. Works on psychiatry, dietetics, etiquette and aesthetics, as well as novels and music criticism, increasingly discussed music as a pathogen, reaching an apogee in the in the work of the likes of Nietzsche, Nordau, Hanslick and Thomas Mann. This trend reached its apogee with the Nazi and Soviet policies towards “degenerate music,” when the impact of the wrong kind of music on the nerves became a matter of state concern.
Zur Person: Dr. James Gordon Kennaway; 1993-1996 an der London School of Economics: Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Geschichte. Seminare am “Warburg Institute” der University of London, der “School of Slavonic and East European Studies” (University College London) und am “Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine”. 1997-1998 am King’s College, London: Master of Music (MMus) in historischer Musikwissenschaft, betreut von Prof. John Deathridge. 2002-2003 an der Humboldt Universität Berlin: DAAD Stipendium, betreut von Prof. Hermann Danuser. 2000-2004 an der University of California, Los Angeles: PhD in Musikwissenschaft (Mai 2004). Dissertation über “Richard Wagner und Degeneration in der der Musik”, Doktorvater: Prof. Raymond Knapp. – BeruflicheTätigkeiten: 2001-2002 Dozent an der University of California, Los Angeles; 2004-2005 Freiberufliche Tätigkeit als Journalist und Übersetzer in Berlin; 2005-2006 Lehrbeauftragter an der kulturwissenschaftlichen Fakultät der Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt an der Oder; 2006-2008 Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow an der Stanford University.
aus: GaM@lists.univie.ac.at

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