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«by Robert Schumann: the Szenen aus Goethes Faust (WoO 3), Genoveva Op. 81, Das Paradies und die Peri Op. 50 By Claudine Jacques Department of Music ...»

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Gender Transitivity in Three Dramatic Works by Robert Schumann: the Szenen aus

Goethes Faust (WoO 3), Genoveva Op. 81, Das Paradies und die Peri Op. 50


Claudine Jacques

Department of Music

McGill University, Montreal

February 2011

A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research in partial fulfillment of the

requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

© Claudine Jacques 2011


This dissertation is a study of gender transitivity as I see it at work in three of Robert Schumann’s dramatic works: the Szenen aus Goethes Faust, WoO 3, the opera Genoveva op. 81, and the oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri op. 50. In this study, I use the term gender transitivity to refer to the fluid movement along feminine and masculine subject positions. While on the surface Schumann created seemingly passive, Gretchen-like female characters in his dramatic works, he also worked with pluralistic ideas about gender drawn from his extensive knowledge of early nineteenth-century literature and philosophy. He explored alternative femininities and masculinities for fictional characters in his works, acknowledging the transitive or fluid nature of gender concepts as theorized by Romantic writers. I argue that Clara Schumann, at once a strong woman active in the public sphere and yet reiterating stereotypes of proper feminine behaviour, blurred categories of gender and thus, provided for her husband a fitting model for the three female characters discussed below.

For my analysis, I use a wide range of critical theories on gender such as psychoanalysis and the semiotic chora (Julia Kristeva), literary constructions of gender (Barbara BeckerCantarino), androgyny (Sara Friedrichsmeyer), bi-gendrism (Mary R. Strand), bisexuality (Alice Kuzniar), specular reciprocity and gender hybridity (Tacey A. Rosolowski), feminine writing (Luce Irigaray, Martha Helfer), gender synergy (Lawrence Kramer, Elizabeth Morrison), the cry (Michel Poizat) and the narrative voice (Carolyn Abbate, Paul Robinson). What I call gender transitivity is enabled by these concepts, which have been developed by scholars of feminist and gender studies to analyze the blurring, flexibility and mobility of gender boundaries in sources from the first half of the nineteenth century.

ii The first part of this dissertation consists of two chapters. Chapter One provides a literature review and my methodological apparatus, drawn from contemporary feminist critiques of German romantic philosophy and literature. Next, I focus on Schumann’s views on gender in his writings and other sources from the mid-1820s to his death in 1856. The remainder of this chapter finally critically examines three common literary archetypes: women as redemptive figures, women as suffering images of the Virgin Mary, and women as angelic figures.

Ultimately, these archetypes are male fabrications, presenting women as passive and idealized.

However, they have strength and power in their own ways. Chapter Two studies the figure of Clara Schumann, her multiple roles as pianist, composer, mother, wife and muse. I argue that Clara, who on one level embodied for her husband a deeply romanticized, idealized Goethean archetype of the “Eternal feminine,” was also a strong, assertive woman active in the public sphere, who assumed unconventional gender roles. Schumann modified the stereotype by toning down (but without omitting altogether) some of its more stereotypical elements.

The three chapters in the second part of my dissertation are intended as case studies that demonstrate how Schumann’s dramatic works reflect his multifaceted views on gender as expressed in his letters, diaries and criticism. I present close literary and musical analyses of three dramatic works, focusing on important scenes in each. I read three female characters (Gretchen, Genoveva, and the Peri) through the lenses of gender transitivity in order to convey their complexity in these works, as well as to provide insights into little-investigated aspects of their psychological development.

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Cette thèse est une étude de la transitivité du genre dans trois œuvres dramatiques de Robert Schumann: les Szenen aus Goethes Faust, WoO 3, l’opéra Genoveva op. 81, et l’oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri op. 50. J’emploie le terme transitivité du genre en référence à un mouvement fluide entre une position féminine et masculine du sujet. Bien que Schumann semble avoir créé des personnages féminins passifs, à l’image de Gretchen, dans ses œuvres dramatiques, il fut également influencé par une conception pluraliste du genre, de par sa connaissance étendue de la littérature et de la philosophie du 19e siècle. Il a exploré pour ses personnages fictifs des féminités et masculinités alternatives, en tenant compte de la nature transitive et fluide du genre, telle que mise en théorie par divers auteurs romantiques. Je suggère que Clara Schumann fut à la fois une femme forte et active dans la sphère publique, et réitérant les stéréotypes pour une conduite féminine convenable, mêlant les catégories du genre et ainsi, procura à son mari un modèle approprié pour les trois personnages féminins discutés plus bas.

Pour mon analyse, j’ai utilisé un large éventail de théories concernant le genre telles que la psychoanalyse et le sémiotique (Julia Kristeva), la construction littéraire du genre (Barbara Becker-Cantarino), l’androgynie (Sara Friedrichsmeyer), le bi-gendrisme (Mary R. Strand), la bisexualité (Alice Kuzniar), la réciprocité spéculaire et l’hybridité du genre (Tacey A.

Rosolowski), l’écriture féminine (Luce Irigaray, Martha Helfer), la sygergie du genre (Lawrence Kramer), le cri (Michel Poizat) et la voix narrative (Carolyn Abbate, Paul Robinson). Ce que je nomme transitivité du genre est facilité par ces concepts, développés par les études féministes et du genre afin d’analyser la flexibilité et mobilité des limites du genre dans les sources de la première moitié du 19e siècle. Ces théories féministes, en faisant fi des oppositions binaires du genre, aident à mettre au jour le pouvoir féminin dans les œuvres artistiques et théoriques.

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revue de la littérature et le cadre méthodologique, provenant de théories féministes contemporaines concernant la philosophie et la littérature allemandes. J’examine ensuite la pensée de Schumann sur le genre présente dans ses écrits et diverses sources, de 1825 jusqu’à sa mort en 1856. J’examine ensuite trois archétypes littéraires: la femme en tant que figure rédemptrice, incarnation de la Vierge Marie, et figure angélique. Ces archétypes, issues de l’imaginaire masculin, présentent les personnages féminins comme passifs et idéalisés. Pourtant, elles possèdent également force et pouvoir. Le chapitre deux étudie Clara Schumann et ses roles multiples (pianiste, compositrice, mère, épouse et muse). Clara, qui incarne aux yeux de son mari l’idéal Goethéen romantique de l’éternel féminin, fut également une femme active dans la sphère publique, qui a remis en question le stéréotype oppressif en assumant des roles non conventionnels. Grâce à son influence, Schumann a modifié le stéréotype en modifiant certains de ses éléments les plus oppressifs.

La deuxième partie de cette thèse sont trois études de cas, démontrant de quelle manière les œuvres dramatiques de Schumann reflètent sa vision complexe du genre. Je présente une analyse musicale et littéraire approfondie de trois œuvres dramatiques, en mettant l’emphase sur les scènes importantes de chacune. J’analyse les trois personnages féminins (Gretchen, Genoveva, la Péri) à travers le prisme de la transitivité du genre, pour rendre compte de leur complexité, contribuer à une meilleure compréhension de certains éléments peu discutés de leur développement psychologique.

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As I look back at the last 7 years I have spent at McGill, I reminded of all the wonderful scholars, teachers, and individuals that I have been fortunate to meet along the way and who have been of great support, scholarly, moral, financial, or otherwise, throughout these fruitful seven years. I would like to take the occasion to thank them here.

I would like to thank, first and foremost, my advisor Prof. Roe-Min Kok. Her thoughtful advices, masterly command of the primary sources pertaining to the life and work of Robert Schumann and her committment to high quality research have been an immense source of inspiration along the way. I am immensely grateful to her invaluable insight and patience in all the stages involved in the writing of this dissertation. My most heartfelt thanks must also go to Prof. Lloyd Whitesell, who as a reader of this work has provided thorough criticism and suggested many avenues for further inquiries and improvement.

I have also been inspired by the many conferences and workshops given at the McGill Institue for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies (led by Marguerite Deslauriers), as well as the many insightful discussion which I have had with scholars from various fields of study and which, in turn, have enriched my work during a Women Studies seminar taught by Carrie Rentschler during the Fall of 2008. Among fellow comrades in feminist crime, I would like to thank: Xiangzhen Wang, Rosel Kim, Julie Leroux and Sarah Berry, in particular.

I have also been deeply influenced and inspired by the work and the human qualities of my fellow friends and collegues in the music department: these include Brian Tuttle, Jane Hatter, Dana Gorzelany-Mostak, Dan Donnelly, Mike Ethen, Ellen Bakulina, and many, many others whom I have been most fortunate and blessed to meet along the way, and with whom I have had

–  –  –

importantly to me their passion about their own work has fuelled my own musicological drive.

I am also heavily indebted to Erin Helyard and Duncan Schouten. Their help in devising the musical examples for this dissertation has been most appreciated, and it has been a tremendous relief to be able to count on their invaluable help, at times on very short notice.

I would also express my most heartfelt thanks to my parents, Josée Archambault and Michel Jacques, who have supported me in so many ways, emotionally and financially, throughout the years. I could not have done it without their help: this dissertation is dedicated to them, with my utmost appreciation and gratitude.

–  –  –


Between the years 1827-1833, more than 35 women are mentioned in Schumann’s diaries. These include women Schumann met on a daily basis, women he met only briefly, women he never met but whom he idealized, female characters in literary works he set to music, and women (real or imagined) as covert presence in his instrumental works. Some were passing acquaintances, some were friends, a few acted as mentors (Agnes Carus, his sisters-in-law Therese and Rosalie Schumann), others were his sweethearts (Liddy Hempel, Clara von Kurrer, Ernestine von Fricken, Clara Wieck), or creative artists (the poetess Elizabeth Kulmann). These women assume a wide range of roles: mother, friend, beloved, wife, protector, and muse. They stood in his writings as archetypal images of femininity and Schumann’s metaphorical language to describe them, redolent of early romantic literary works, is deeply gendered. In this dissertation, I explore Schumann’s representations of feminine identity in his dramatic works against a backdrop of early-to-mid-nineteenth-century philosophical and literary debates on gender. Scholars have observed that in this period, eighteenth-century gender stereotypes, attributes and values previously conceived as fixed and stable were challenged, redefined and redrawn.1 Authors such as Goethe, Jean Paul, Novalis, and Friedrich Schlegel treated gender as Martha B. Helfer notes how Friedrich Schlegel tended to “break down strict gender dualisms and instead merges the masculine and feminine in his theoretical construction of an ideal, complete humanity.” Helfer, “Gender Studies and Romanticism,” in The Literature of German Romanticism, ed. Dennis F. Mahoney (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2004), 234.

a pluridimensional concept: they theorized the blurring of gendered attributes and overcoming of stereotypical norms for femininity and masculinity.

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