Schubert in the European Imagination, Volume 1

Schubert in the European Imagination, Volume 1

The Romantic and Victorian Eras

Scott Messing


University of Rochester Press



How Franz Schubert and his compositions were viewed in nineteenth-century European criticism, literature, and the visual arts, from Schumann to George Eliot to Whistler.
In Schubert in the European Imagination, Volume 1: The Romantic and Victorian Eras, Scott Messing examines the historical reception of Franz Schubert as conveyed through the gendered imagery and language of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European culture.
The concept of Schubert as a feminine type vaulted into prominence in 1838 when Robert Schumann described the composer's Mädchencharakter ("girlish" character), by contrast to the purportedly more masculine, more heroic Beethoven. What attracted Schumann to Schubert's music and marked it as feminine is evident in some of Schumann's own works that echo those of Schubert's in intriguing ways.
Schubert's supposedly feminine quality acted upon the popular consciousness also through the writers and artists -- in German-speaking Europe but also in France and England -- whose fictional characters perform and hear Schubert's music. The figures discussed include Musset, Sand, Nerval, Maupassant, George Eliot, Henry James, Beardsley, Whistler, Storm, Fontane, and Heinrich and Thomas Mann.
Over time, Schubert's stature became inextricably entwined with concepts of the distinct social roles of men and women, especially in domestic settings. For a composer whose reputation was principally founded upon musical genres that both the public and professionals construed as most suitable for private performance, the lure to locate Schubert within domestic spaces and to attach to him the attributes of its female occupants must have been irresistible.
The story told is not without its complications, as this book reveals in an analysis of the response to Schubert in England, where the composer's eminence was questioned by critics whose arguments sometimes hinged on the more problematic aspects of gender in Victorian culture.

Scott Messing is Charles A. Dana Professor of Music at Alma College, and author of Neoclassicism in Music (University of Rochester Press, 1996).


September 2006
7 black and white illustrations
343 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580462334
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, MUS006000, MUS050000
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Related Titles

Table of Contents

Robert Schumann's Schubert: Inventing a Mädchencharakter
Disseminating a Mädchencharakter: Gendered Concepts of Schubert in German-Speaking Europe
Performing Schubert's Music in Nineteenth-Century Literature
Performing Schubert's Music in Nineteenth-Century Art
A "Slipper-and-Dressing-Gown style": Schubert in Victorian England


This (two-volume) book is not only a model of work in its field, but a stimulating and timely reminder of what we (scholars) should all aspire towards. . . . A monumental monograph that transforms our view of its subject. . . . . A formidable achievement. . . . The publication of this monograph offers yet more evidence that the University of Rochester Press has become a highly significant player in the field. --MUSIC AND LETTERS (James Garratt)

This book impresses both by the prodigiousness of its scholarship -- Scott Messing seems to have tracked down every nineteenth-century word, daub, and note inspired by Schubert -- and by the fascination of the materials it collects. Better yet, it puts these materials to excellent use, demonstrating beyond question the extraordinary depth to which Schubert penetrated nineteenth-century consciousness and culture and the extraordinary degree to which Schubert was perceived as feminine. --Lawrence Kramer, Professor of English and Music, Fordham University, and author of Franz Schubert: Sexuality, Subjectivity, Song

Original, engaging, and compellingly written, Scott Messing's Schubert in the European Imagination makes an enormous contribution to our understanding of the evolving image of Franz Schubert, one of the most elusive of all composers. The interdisciplinary breadth of Messing's project, drawing on political and cultural history, art, and literature, is a model for musical scholarship. --Christopher H. Gibbs, James H. Ottaway, Jr. Professor of Music at Bard College, and author of The Life of Schubert

An unparalleled depth of available material about an indisputably great composer. --NEW YORK SUN (Benjamin Ivry)

Important and distinctive. . . . Impressive musical scholarship, rich in insights and covering ground that has not been adequately researched hitherto. --THE SCHUBERTIAN (C. Crawford Howie)

Author Bio

Scott Messing is Charles A. Dana Professor of Music at Alma College.

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