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The Death of the Piano Girl: Modernity and the Mechanisation of Music in E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View
Halmstad University, School of Education, Humanities and Social Science, Contexts and Cultural Boundaries (KK).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4453-945X
2010 (English)In: Redefining Modernism and Postmodernism / [ed] Şebnem Toplu & Hubert Zapf, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010, p. 145-157Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

E. M. Forster's A Room with a View (1908) is a charming novel with a charming heroine. Lucy Honeyworth comes across as a conventional young Edwardian woman whose great musical talent as a performer of canonical piano music redeems her from the epithet "commonplace." Scholars have placed her within the framework of Victorian performance culture to prove that music renders her original and interesting. She acts out the expected role of the entertaining middle-class woman as well as redefines that role through her individual interpretation of the repertoire, in particular Beethoven's opus 111, a sonata demanding great technical skill. In this double role the piano is instrumental for lending originality to the character.

This picture tallies badly with that of Edwardian critics, who did not seem to think that music had a catalytic function on Lucy but saw her as an original young woman incapable of storing any cultural information, let alone memorising a complicated piano score. These critics may have considered the possibility that Lucy is operating a mechanical piano, a pianola.  I argue, therefore, that the music-making in Forster's novel must be studied at the intersection of the classical romantic discourse and the discourse network of 1900. Lucy is to be understtod against the background of sound technology and applied physiology. The mechanical discourse, and more specifically, the pianola discourse, opens up new possibilities for the female performer to express herself thus wreaking havoc with the heavily gendered traditional music discourse.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010. p. 145-157
National Category
Humanities
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-5810Libris ID: 17519820ISBN: 978-1-4438-2268-8 ISBN: 978-1-4438-2306-7 OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-5810DiVA, id: diva2:351885
Conference
12th International Cultural Studies Symposium - From Modernity to Postmodernity Across Borders Conference, Izmir, Turkey, 29th April-1st May, 2009
Note

Paper delivered at the 12th International Cultural Studies Symposium - From Modernity to Postmodernity Across Borders Conference, Izmir, Turkey, 29th April-1st May, 2009

Available from: 2010-09-16 Created: 2010-09-16 Last updated: 2015-08-25Bibliographically approved

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Björkén-Nyberg, Cecilia

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
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Output format
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