Songbirds on the Literary Stage published

Effertz coverThis interdisciplinary study, situated at the cross-section of music, literature and gender, examines the woman singer and her song as a literary motif in French and German prose fiction from the 1790s to the mid-nineteenth century. Through selected case studies, this diachronic history of motifs offers a fresh perspective on canonical singer archetypes, such as Goethe’s child singer Mignon and Madame de Staël’s ground-breaking artist Corinne. The volume also examines lesser known narratives by authors including Caroline Auguste Fischer, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Hector Berlioz and Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, some of which have not been considered critically in this regard before. This allows for a re-evaluation of the significance of the singer motif in musical narratives from the Romantic era to the July Monarchy. The sometimes polemic, often ambivalent, yet always nuanced and multi-layered reflection on the woman singer in literature bears testimony to the complexity of the nineteenth-century musical-literary discourse and its fluid negotiation of gender relations and female performance, fitting well with that ineffable, enigmatic essence of the woman singer herself who, as a literary motif and a cultural icon, continues to resonate and fascinate well beyond the nineteenth century.

Available for purchase here.

Julia Effertz is a comparative literature scholar and an actress who specializes in women in the literature and culture of the nineteenth century from a comparatist perspective. Her work has appeared in the journals Cahiers Staëliens, Jahrbuch für internationale Germanistik and French Studies as well as in the collected volumes Staël’s Philosophy of the Passions (2013), Musique et littérature: rencontres Sainte-Cécile (2011), Violence in French and Francophone Literature and Film (2008) and Paragraphes: parcours figuratifs et configurations discursives du roman africain (2006).


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