Jonathan Huff (KCL) - 2014-15 Students

Music, Enlightenment and Politics: The Idea of ‘Civic Virtues’ in the Aesthetic and Musical Process of the French Revolution 1789-1800

In the aftermath of the Revolution, French society used music to political ends on a historically unprecedented scale. Politicians and musicians aimed to transform public consciousness in order to instil new Republican ideals of civic virtue. I propose to trace how Enlightenment debates on music and emotion continued to shape political discourse on music throughout the Revolutionary period. I will focus on the development of the sensualist school of thought in which music was perceived to possess an extraordinary influence over the emotions, and might thus enable a new affective and moralistic politics. My approach will be thematic: it will evaluate the imitation-of-nature polemics between Batteux and Morellet on the one hand and Boyé and Chabanon on the other; the influence of these on the sensualist theories of Condillac and the Encyclopédists (entailing the ide of music’s ability to  inculcate emotion and moral conduct); of the central  role of vocal music as proposed by Rousseau in his theory of language, and borne out in the Revolutionary festivities; and of the importance of institutionalised pedagogy for  moulding a new society which could participate in musical celebration of the regimes’ ideologies.’

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