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MSA Oct '11 Panel: Music, Gender and Modernist Intersubjectivity
full name / name of organization:
Cecily Swanson & Ben Glaser (Cornell University)
This panel will explore how the modernist music salon, modernist musical event, and the poetics and rhetoric of music within modernist writing, call attention to moments of failed artistic autonomy, and thus permit the articulation of social relationships that might seem otherwise foreclosed. In particular, it asks how the gendering of music informs modernism’s claims for autonomy, and how such claims might be challenged or revised through a critical exploration of modernism’s diverse discourse of music. In the case of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot’s portraits of women, for example, the parody of “feminine” musicality – meaning affective, lyrical, and traditional poetic forms – ironically suggests their sustained fascination with, rather than contempt for, romantic aesthetics. Similarly, Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson’s collaborations on the operettas Four Saints and Three Acts (1927) and The Mother of us All (1946) highlight the pageantry of the avant-garde so as to draw attention to a communal aspect of Stein’s seemingly singular aesthetic practice. And Muriel Draper’s memoir of her London music salon, Music at Midnight (1928), which was admired for sounding “just like her talk,” underscores the ineffability of salon chatter, and thus grants a feature of stereotypical female sociability, chattiness, the same privileged status occupied by music within the modernist imagination. Submissions to this panel should explore ways in which the gendered form and figure of music in modernism animates concerns over intersubjectivity and aesthetic autonomy as they play out in a wide range of texts, genres, and performance contexts.