The Woman Singer and her Song in French and German Prose Fiction, from Goethe to Berlioz
Chapter 7: Finding a Female Narrative: Madame de Thélusson, Madame de Taunay and Marceline Desbordes-Valmore
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In French literature of the 1830s and 1840s, the motif of the woman singer develops as part of a strong social discourse on the liberated artist in general and as part of a female writing tradition in particular. As can be seen with the likes of George Sand and Sophie Ulliac-Trémadeure, women authors are, even more than their male colleagues, preoccupied with the key issues of female song and dramatize them as a mise en corps of female song, explicitly focusing on the singer as heroine between ideal femininity and female artistic empowerment. At the same time, one cannot deny the implications of a female author writing a female character from a different position than her male peers, negotiating the narrative space for music as well as for the woman artist, and, through her, reflecting on her own narrative voice.
It seems that the cantatrice, who takes centre stage and sings with a claim to publicity, critical acclaim and artistic sublimation, and as such renews the long-standing debate surrounding women performers, serves as a prime literary character in that regard and allows especially women authors to partake in the musical-literary discourse, at times bringing forward fresh ideas.
Apart from George Sand and Sophie Ulliac-Trémadeure, women authors wrote musical narratives, in part for the roman-feuilleton, and with varying quality. As with their male peers, these enthusiastic musiciens-littérateurs produced trivial pieces for the most part – but some cases are...
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