The Fictional Lives of the Schumanns

David Ferris

in Rethinking Schumann

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780195393859
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894406 | DOI:
The Fictional Lives of the Schumanns

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Using two recent biographical novels as examples, this chapter argues that the fictional narratives created by novelists can give literary meaning to the Schumanns' lives and can explicitly address universal themes that scholarly biographers can only hint at. In Clara Janice Galloway turns her heroine's life into a feminist Bildungsroman and examines the relationship between Clara Schumann's musical career and her emotional development. J. D. Landis bases Longing on an early 19th‐century fictional genre as well, in this case the early Romantic novel, as he explores the intersections between consciousness, reality, creativity, and madness. Biographical novels are often criticized for blurring fact and fiction as they freely reconstruct the personalities of their subjects, and it is clearly the case that the Schumanns in Longing are not the same characters as the Schumanns in Clara. But the historical narratives of scholarly biographers can also portray the same character in ways that are incompatible with one another, as illustrated by contrasting the accounts of an episode in Schumann's life by two of his biographers, John Daverio and John Worthen. The chapter uses the recent controversy about the diagnosis of Robert Schumann's final illness to compare the genres of the biographical novel and the scholarly biography. The two genres are complementary, and each can potentially contribute in different ways to our understanding of the Schumanns' lives.

Keywords: Clara Schumann; J. D. Landis; Janice Galloway; narrative; biography; fiction; mental illness

Chapter.  19445 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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