Subjectivity and Music in Early Modern English Drama

Title: Subjectivity and Music in Early Modern English Drama
Authors: Loeb, Andrew
Date: 2015
Abstract: Music in the early modern world was an art form fraught with tensions. Writers from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines engaged in a vibrant debate about the value of hearing and playing music, which could be seen as a useful tool for the refinement of the individual or a dangerous liability, capable of compelling inappropriate thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This study analyzes music on the early modern stage and its relation to emerging ideas about subjectivity. Early modern philosophies of music, I demonstrate, are concerned with the stability of the body, the soul, and the humours and spirits that unite them, along with the individual’s capacity for autonomy and agency. In the theatre, I argue, music is frequently deployed as a strategy for experimenting with ways of imagining and performing selfhood. On one hand, it can facilitate self-fashioning, acting as a marker for such characteristics as class and spiritual condition; on the other, it can be disruptive to identity and the capacity for agency and autonomy, since music was understood as both penetrative and transformative, facilitating the disruption of one self by an other. Chapter 1, “Meanings of Music in Early Modern England,” surveys a range of early modern texts on music to demonstrate their concerns with both the performance of the self and the threat of its dissolution. Chapter 2, “Many Sorts of Music in Twelfth Night and The Roaring Girl,” examines music’s role as an imaginative strategy for improvising an unstable, hybrid gender identity, an alternative subject-position from which to speak and act in ways ordinarily denied to women. Chapter 3, “Music, Magic, and Community in Early Modern Witchcraft Plays,” explores witches’ uses of music to establish a sense of communal identity and to magically disrupt the communities from which they have been excluded. Finally, Chapter 4, “Noise, the City, and the Subject in Epicoene” makes a case for understanding Morose’s fear of noise in terms of early modern ideas about music, reading noise as a radical instability representative of new ways of fashioning selves in a rapidly expanding urban environment.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -