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Grier, F. (2020). The inner world of Beethoven’s ninth symphony: Masculine and feminine?. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(1):84-109.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(1):84-109

Interdisciplinary Studies

The inner world of Beethoven’s ninth symphony: Masculine and feminine?

Francis Grier

In this paper, I explore the principal model within classical Western music, the sonata form, in terms of its gendered narratives. Susan McClary, an eminent American musicologist, started to do this in the 1980s as part of her forceful feminist critique of academic musicology and the music considered to be “great” within the Western classical music canon. She has been especially critical of much of Beethoven’s music, particularly the Ninth Symphony, which, along with other major works, she considers to be structured along patriarchal lines, actively if unconsciously promoting the values of patriarchy, overflowing with male violence and female subordination, its narrative primarily based on phallic sexuality. Her influence has been very considerable in musicology. I set out her case and critique it psychoanalytically, but in so doing I also set out my own theory of sonata form and Beethoven’s music as imbued with, and expressive of, a bisexual narrative. As Beethoven’s forceful masculinity has long been recognized, I particularly emphasize and illustrate his musical femininity. I also discuss and employ theories of countertransference and Oedipal configurations in relationship to Beethoven’s music in particular, and in general the links between Western classical music and the musicality of ordinary clinical psychoanalysis.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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