Music

da Sousa Correa, Delia (2015). Music. In: Felluga, Dino Franco; Gilbert, Pamela K. and Hughes, Linda K. eds. The Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature, Volume III. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 1092–1101.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118405376.wbevl219

Abstract

Victorian literature is richly connected with musical culture. Scholars investigating music and Victorian literature have illuminated relationships between music and Victorian science, music and “the woman question,” and music and social reform. These connections were underpinned by a consensus that music worked as a language for the emotions that could foster sympathy and community. However, music was also a potentially dangerous sensual power. This paradox is particularly evident in gendered representations of music and in debates on the woman question. Scenes of music making in Victorian novels communicate a great deal about music's cultural importance, as do copious figurative allusions to music in Victorian literature. Romantic idealization of music was also fundamental to the ways in which writers employed musical tropes and readers interpreted them. Musical metaphor represents the affective power of literature and the ideals and aspirations of writers. At the same time, music in Victorian literature maintains an insistent nonmetaphorical connection with the listening experience. Despite the historical gap in listening experience then and now, musical allusion remains important to the affective power of Victorian texts, and the interdisciplinary study of music and Victorian literature enriches understanding of Victorian culture.

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