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Colin Benert, University of Chicago

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Kleist’s Heilige Cäcilie: The Musical Sublime and the Volkskörper in the Long 19th Century

Colin Benert

Kleist’s Heilige Cäcilie: The Musical Sublime and the Volkskörper in the Long 19th Century

Colin Benert, University of Chicago

In this paper I present a reading of Kleist’s tale from 1810 in order to introduce a larger research topic, namely the biopolitical significance of music in German-speaking countries in the long 19th century. The paper first examines the peculiar conjunction of music, revolution and communion in this Fronleichnam-story as an indication of the epochal alignment of the musical sublime with the Body of the people (Volkskörper). Then I outline how the tale anticipates the essential tension or polarity in musical biopolitics in the 19th century, namely between the participatory or ‘liberal’ model of the musical Body, exhibited by the growth of choral associations, and the metaphysical or ‘authoritarian’ model, in which music reveals the sublime Volkskörper to a passive audience.

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About the German Studies Seminar

The Newberry Library German Studies Seminar series provides a forum for scholarship-in-progress in the area of German studies. The seminar is particularly interested in papers that cross disciplinary boundaries and that reconceptualize the materials and conventions of German Studies as a field, including beyond the frames of the German language and nation state. Like all Newberry Scholarly Seminars, meetings are conversational and free and open to faculty, graduate students, and members of the public, who register in advance to request papers.

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