Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Musicology, University of Oregon

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Music, University of Chicago
Objects of Veneration: Music, Materiality, and Marketing in the Composer-Cults of Nineteenth-Century Germany and Austria

My dissertation explores the popular veneration of nineteenth-century German and Austrian composers as figures akin to saints. The project's seven case studies focus on material "relics" as encounters with the composer's body, along with the museums that housed relics as sites for these encounters. While the project takes objects and spaces as its focus, I will also draw upon other "sites" of popular reception, such as panegyric poems, memoirs, obituaries, and biographies. An important aspect of my study will be to situate these genres and practices in the growing consumer culture of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, where the Romantic ideal of aesthetic transcendence was transformed into a commodity that combined artistic prestige with personal veneration. I will show that the proliferation of hagiographic biographies, enshrined objects, and mass-produced souvenirs in the nineteenth century were part of a growing tourism industry that promoted "pilgrimage" to birthplaces and gravesites. At its core, this study reveals a critical tension in nineteenth century aesthetics: the seeming incompatibility of the tangible (relics, body, composer) and the intangible (music, genius, the divine). This tension underlies many of the concerns about authenticity and kitsch that dominated nineteenth-century aesthetic debates. My project also contributes to the narrative of canon formation where textual and material objects, pervasive in nineteenth-century popular culture, functioned alongside monumentality and the "work concept" to crystallize the pantheon of (primarily German and Austrian) composers and a core of musical masterworks.