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This dissertation applies the concept of Romantic irony as a critical approach to instrumental music of the nineteenth century, based on the string quartets of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Robert Schumann. Romantic irony, notably identified by Friedrich Schlegel, influenced authors and composers and Mendelssohn and Schumann would have been familiar with the concept. As Romantic musicians with extensive literary knowledge who also composed significant string quartets, Mendelssohn and Schumann are the two most obvious choices whose music enables such a study. By the nineteenth century string quartets had become established as the most academic, intellectual, and abstract of the instrumental genres. The genre would intuitively seem the least likely to manifest Romantic irony. If Romantic irony could be shown to exist in string quartets, then it must have been a very powerful concept indeed. There can be no formulaic methodology for indentifying Romantic irony in a musical work. Consequently the primary criterion of any methodology for this investigation must be the flexibility to adapt to different situations. Certain fundamental objectives will remain constant, although in each case the subsidiary ones will differ. The procedure consists of examining each work in a series of steps: 1) identify the perceivable world of the work; 2) recognize the contradictions of that world; 3) identify the work's persona; 4) distinguish the paradoxes specific to the work; and 5) explain how the preceding steps lead to transcendence, or how a new understanding of the world is reached through the work's paradoxes. Mendelssohn and Schumann express some similar themes in their respective quartets. By raising issues of musical meaning, the quartets compel a look at the broader scope of music and meaning. The two composers express their concern with musical meaning in very different manners, however. Schumann's focus is on the larger picture that includes the history of music, while Mendelssohn emphasizes his own intriguing aesthetic position regarding meaning in music.
A Dissertation submitted to the College of Music in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Douglass Seaton, Professor Directing Treatise; Eric Walker, Outside Committee Member; Michael Bakan, Committee Member; Charles E. Brewer, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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