Weeks 1 and 2
In this first unit, we will explore some of the methodological questions and problems that arise at the intersections of musicology, cultural studies, and women’s history. We will also ask how these issues affect both the representation of women in the history books and the way we understand musical works.
Unit 2: Women’s lives and music in the Middle Ages and Early Modern era – Musical nuns
Weeks 3 and 4
In this unit, we will focus on music in women’s lives before 1600. We’ll learn about the relationship between the Church and women’s music making, look at women’s roles in secular society in Europe, and examine some of the surviving music and lyrics from this period known to have been written by women.
- 1/28 Music in Convents I
- 1/30 Gender in Medieval Song Lyrics
- 2/4 Did Women Have a Renaissance?
- 2/6 Music in Convents II
Unit 3: Public vs. Private Spheres – Women’s musical educations
Weeks 5 and 6
In these four classes, we will delve into issues related to the ways women are perceived when they make music in public—such as on the opera stage—versus in private or domestic settings. We’ll also consider how cultural expectations and attitudes toward musical training have factored in to women’s professional opportunities, particularly in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
- 2/11 Public vs private in women’s performance traditions
- 2/13 The rise of the virtuosa / Male & female sopranos
- 2/18 Wives, Mothers, and Sisters
- 2/20 Salons and domestic music-making
Unit 4: Gender and the Construction of Genius – Women, the Symphony, and the Opera
Weeks 7 and 8
For decades, if not centuries, men questioned whether women had the intellectual ability to compose and perform the most “serious” genres of art music, like symphonies and operas. We will look at how this debate played out in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and listen to some large-scale works by female composers who wrote during this era. We will also follow the activities of women’s music clubs, women’s orchestras, and significant female patrons.
- 2/25 Representations of Women in Romantic Operas
- 2/27 The “Woman Composer Question”
- 3/4 Women Conductors and Orchestral Musicians / Women Patrons
- 3/6 Midterm Exam
Unit 5: Feminine Spectacle – Music and Suffrage
Weeks 10 and 11 (Note: Week 9, 3/10–3/14 is spring break!)
Theater was the paramount form of popular entertainment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and female dancers and singers were often among the main attractions. This raises a host of questions about how gender is performed on stage, and also how musical theater had the power to help define gender roles. On one hand, theater could objectify women as sexual spectacle; on the other, women on stage could have a powerful voice as cultural critics–which they used to their advantage during the women’s suffrage movement.
- 3/18: Women on Broadway and in Variety Theater – Chorus Girls
- 3/20: Music and the Women’s Suffrage Movement
- 3/25: Women’s Fashion and Musical Performance
- 3/27: Paper Meetings (no class)
Unit 6: Women and Popular Music in the Twentieth Century – Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender
Weeks 12 and 13
In this section of the class, we will turn a critical eye toward several genres of popular music– including the blues, rock and roll, and hip hop. We’ll ask how intersections of race, class, and gender have shaped the experiences and music of women working in these styles as well as their reception by audiences and critics.
- 4/1 Women in Blues and Jazz
- 4/3 Pop Music and Second-Wave Feminism
- 4/8 Women and Rock and Roll
- 4/10 Gender in Heavy Metal and Rap
Unit 7: Where Are We Now? – Student Presentations
Weeks 14 and 15
In this final unit, we’ll take stock of the status of women in the music industry today, considering both popular and classical music. Then, we’ll conclude with your research presentations.
- 4/15 Women in Art Music Today
- 4/17 Women in Contemporary Pop Music
- 4/22 & 4/24 Student Presentations and Wrap-Up
- Dates TBD: Final Exam/Project Due