Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Downing A. Thomas
Eighteenth-century opéras comiques often turn around moments of sympathy--moral and affective bonds through which the Enlightenment imagined a natural basis for the social order as well as the pleasures and transformative potential of art. Through musico-literary analysis informed by models of moral and aesthetic relationality that I derive from Dubos, Marivaux, Rousseau and Diderot, I argue that opéras comiques written and performed between 1835and the Revolution feature three distinct forms of sympathy: 1) a worldly-sensuous sympathy most typically found in the common subgenre of the sentimental pastorale and characterized by a happy blending of moral and sensual connections; 2) an amorous intersubjectivity found occasionally in sentimental comedies and characterized by a sometimes empowering, sometimes trying encounter with an other experienced as a site of subjective freedom; and finally 3) a sacrificial sympathy found most frequently in Michel-Jean Sedaine's sometimes pointedly anti-worldly, morally sober lyric dramas and characterized by an obstacle-triggered leap into an identificatory, affective imagination.
Although there is much that distinguishes these forms of sympathy, they are all shaped by eighteenth-century empiricist assumptions as to the existence of a basic relationality between the self and his or her social environment and thus resist a standard critical model that sees such emotional ties as merely the effect of some more fundamental separation between self and other.
Copyright 2010 Janet K. Leavens
Leavens, Janet Kristen. "Figures of sympathy in eighteenth-century Opéra comique." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2010.