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    Counterfeits, Contraltos and Harmony in De Quincey’s Sublime
    Stanyon, M ; Stanyon, M ; Hibberd, S (Cambridge University Press, 2020-05-31)
    What counts as legitimately sublime and what as counterfeit? The question of policing boundaries is internal to the sublime, and particularly fraught insofar as it is defined as transgressing limits of various kinds. If music is included in the sublime – by no means a foregone conclusion in its history – then what sort of music? Must it be violent, shocking or dissonant, transgressing orderly harmony in some obvious way? This chapter examines the fraught status and remit of harmony in the literary-critical discourse of the sublime. When music and musical concepts appear within broader scholarship on the sublime, they are often aligned with dissonance and irresolvability, as part of a construction of modernity likewise aligned with the breaking of old orders and harmonies. The chapter complicates this view through a double study of the late Romantic author Thomas De Quincey and his favourite singer, the Italian contralto Josephine Grassini. It examines both the multifaceted work to which music and harmony are put in De Quincey’s Confessions (1821), and the complexity of Grassini’s performances beyond the limits of the text, including her vocal traits, gendering, roles and repertoire during the Napoleonic wars, leading to reconsideration of sublimity’s relationship to pathos alongside harmony.
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    Sonorous Sublimes: An Introduction
    Hibberd, S ; Stanyon, M ; Hibberd, S ; Stanyon, M (Cambridge University Press, 2020)
    This introduction to the volume provides overviews of theories of the sublime and musicology’s engagement with the sublime, before outlining the fresh perspective brought by this collection. The focus is on historically specific experiences of the sublime: although the centre of gravity is the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in the well-known centres of intellectual debate on the sublime in Europe, a widened purview considers performers and audiences, as well as composers and works, as agents of power. The authors distinguish between the different aesthetics of production, representation and effect, while understanding these as often mutually reinforcing approaches. A significant cross-temporal finding to emerge from the collection is music’s strength in playing out the sublime as transfer, transport and transmission of power; this is allied to the persistent theme of destruction, deaths and endings. The density of this thematic complex in music is a keynote of the dialogue between the chapters. The volume opens up two avenues for further research, suggested by the adjective ‘sonorous’: a wider spectrum of sounds heard as sublime, and (especially for those outside musicology) a more multifaceted idea of music as a cultural practice that has porous boundaries with other sounding phenomena.
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    Music and Romantic Literature
    Stanyon, M ; Taylor, B (Cambridge University Press, 2021-08-06)
    This chapter outlines the work of music for Romantic literature. The Romantic era was a pivotal period in the formation of literature as we now tend to understand it, as a category of imaginative and expressive prose and poetry, and writers deployed music in a number of ways to explore the power, limits, and nature of the literary. While lofty claims were made for literature as an ideal art form, one of the strongest uses of music for literature was to suggest its failures – to indicate kinds of freedom, fulfilment, and plenitude only pointed to by verbal language. The paradoxical uses of failure are discussed in this chapter through texts by writers including Blake, Kleist, Hoffmann, Coleridge, and Mérimée.