Chapter

THE SEXUAL POLITICS OF VICTORIAN MUSICAL AESTHETICS

Derek B. Scott

in FROM THE EROTIC TO THE DEMONIC

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780195151961
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199870394 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195151961.003.0003
THE SEXUAL POLITICS OF VICTORIAN MUSICAL AESTHETICS

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A sexual division of musical composition emerged in 19th-century Britain: during that period, metaphors of masculinity and femininity solidified into truths about musical style. Contemporary social theory, domestic sphere ideology, the new scientia sexualis, and aesthetics of the sublime and the beautiful ensured that certain musical styles were considered unsuitable or even unnatural for women composers. Female creativity was also denied or inhibited by educational and socioeconomic pressures born of ideological assumptions. In consequence, many women found themselves marginalized as composers, restricted to “acceptable” genres such as the drawing-room ballad. Men, too, were affected by the sexual politics of the age, because the supposed revelation of biological truths in music meant that the presence of feminine qualities in their compositions could lead to invidious comparison with the less elevated output of women.

Keywords: aesthetics; female; femininity; ideology; masculinity; separate spheres; women

Chapter.  9315 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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