Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
In recent decades, mimesis has become a critical term for rethinking relationality, difference, and affect, reconsidered against the notions of artistic autonomy and representation. While music—and sound in general—seldom feature in these accounts, issues of musical autonomy and representation (aesthetic and political) in music studies have given way to a concern with immediacy, relationality, and vibration that bypass a revaluation of the discipline’s own accounts of mimesis, still understood largely as imitation. I propose a radical revision of mimesis away from its traditional understanding to bridge these various gaps and to reaffirm the necessity of thinking of alterity and difference in expanded conceptions of musical relationality. Music is more central in ancient Greek accounts of mimesis, especially in Plato’s Republic, than current musicology acknowledges. In close reading of these texts and drawing on the work of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jacques Derrida (1975), I elaborate a critical methodology to analyze the logics of mimesis—the mimetologies—as they are deployed in theoretical works and artistic performances. I propose to understand mimesis in music not as imitation but as (1) related to the ancient Greek mousikē—the collective performance of sung poetry and dance; (2) the production of originals out of copies (and not the reverse); (3) the inscription of the ethos and laws of the community through musical practice; (4) a general process involved in the production and negotiation of value, identity, and difference. This revaluation of mimesis challenges narratives of emancipation and discontinuity that continue to privilege a Romantic philosophy of autonomous music and which fail to offer rigorous accounts of music’s social inscription. In close dialogue with musicological and philosophical historiography, I focus on the Artusi-Monteverdi controversy, the Medici intermedi of 1589, and early operas, Peri’s L’Euridice (1600) and Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (1607). As a mimetic performance, music does not mirror or represent social orders but participates in their production and regulation. I conclude that early modern spectacle and opera employed an ethos of allegrezza to inscribe the laws of a patriarchal society in which sovereign power was preserved across Europe through marriage ties and strictly male inheritance.
Villegas, Daniel, "Mimetologies: Aesthetic Politics in Early Modern Opera" (2016). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 2077.