Young Man's Fancy: Enlightenment Taxonomy and the Feminization of the Free Musical Fantasia
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In this thesis, I explicate the linkage between gender and the phenomenology of musical extemporaneity in the Enlightenment. In so doing, I trace the development of the free musical fantasia from its improvisatory roots in the music of courtesans to its codification as a Baroque topos and its eighteenth-century classification in the treatises of philosophers and music theorists. Enlightenment discourses on the free fantasia coincide with the emergence of the fantastic as a literary genre. This association manifests in the construction of the idea of "feminine music as other," signified by an infatuation with technology, the exhibition of talented female performers and automatons in these narratives, and the awareness of the subconscious as a viable wellspring of creative ideas. As such, the urge to rationalize musical expression at this time may be interpreted as an acknowledgement of the limits of Classical semiotics around the year 1800.