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Music in medieval English romance: musical theory and musical practice, c. 1200–1400

Klimova, Emilia P.; (2020) Music in medieval English romance: musical theory and musical practice, c. 1200–1400. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis examines the depiction of music as an affective force in three kinds of narrative from the corpus of insular romance – kingship quest romances, romances engaging with magic, and Tristan romances – which represent a thematic cross-section of ‘music romances’, as I am dubbing them. The attitudes to the representation of music and musicians in these samples of music romances is, even within a single set of case studies, fluid and variable, but I will show how these romances draw from a shared pool of musical tropes which create a commonality between seemingly disparate texts. I argue that the differences in the portrayal of music’s affective, transformational capabilities in the case studies are primarily a function of the thematic concerns of these texts and their respective genres and modal possibilities. In each case study, one of the romances depicts music’s affective force in its ideal form, where the other challenges the ideal by inverting or undermining the tropes, devoting more attention to the limitations and shortcomings of music’s capabilities. I will look at the various kinds of narratives that these tropes enable: the same set of tropes binding these narratives together allows for considerable range in the representation of concerns about and attitudes to the powers of music. Bringing together the disciplines of medieval musicology and medieval literary studies, I argue that the primary audiences of medieval romance would have been familiar with certain musical contexts, and that these frameworks would have facilitated their understanding and appreciation of music as depicted in the romances, especially in scenes of ritualised elite entertainment. Building on scholarship that discusses music’s affective powers in the Middle Ages, this thesis rests on a conviction of music’s ability – as an aesthetic, social, and affective phenomenon – to influence the physical world and the emotional state of listeners. I trace the development of these principles in medieval musical treatises and their inheritance from classical and late antique precursors, especially Boethius, who curated this older tradition. My analysis reveals a shift from theoretical music (musica speculativa) to practical music (musica practica) in the medieval period, moving away from classical thought; argues for the centrality of education in debates as to whether musical skill is innate or acquired; and shows how abstract precepts of harmony (whether understood as the music of the spheres, social harmony, or the temperate individual) manifest themselves as material effects registered in the listener’s affect.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Music in medieval English romance: musical theory and musical practice, c. 1200–1400
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2020. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
Keywords: musicology, Medieval literature, Music, Medieval romance, English literature, English poetry, Minstrels, troubadours, Medieval English Literature, 13th century literature, 14th century literature, medieval musicology, Musica, Medieval music theory, Boethius, Chaucer, Breton lais, Arthurian romance, Arthurian literature, Matter of England, medieval literacy, medieval manuscripts, Sir Orfeo, Sir Tristrem, Tristan and Isolde, Havelok the Dane, King Horn, Medieval musical instruments, Medieval musical theory, musical vocabulary, theory of affects
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10110331
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