Great Issues in Fine Arts: From the Ballroom to Hell

Schubert's Vienna ca. 1815

HSP 172   CRN 2638
1:10-2:00p.m. MWF
Goodrich 145
Maureen Balke

This course will look at Vienna around 1815—its background of Napoleonic war, politics, censorship, secret police, and rapidly changing society, as well as the diversions young people sought out to "escape" from unpleasant reality.

These diversions ranged from grand public spectacle (major concerts, opera, the theatre, grand balls, celebrity virtuosos) to the intimate salon and Schubertiade, held in private homes and including poetry, song, and tableaux.

To counter the horrors and chaos of war and the battlefield (where men reigned), the ballroom in particular became the dominion of the ladies, including the development of elaborate rituals and games concerning costume, etiquette and dance.    In tandem with dramatic and rapid changes in dress from the French aristocratic model to the more free and form-revealing "Josephine" style, new and scandalous dances (such as the Waltz—but not at all the sedate version we know today!) developed.  Ballroom "games" for choosing one's dance partner, including "The Mirror" and "Whips and Reins", frequently resulted in embarrassment and great hilarity.   Secret messages could be sent to a lover through glove and handkerchief flirtations.  All these activities were a form of "escape" within "safe" societal boundaries.

This class will study the political, social, and musical context in which all these reactions to the times developed.  We will study the Congress of Vienna and read the diary of a Napoleonic footsoldier.  We will read etiquette and dance manuals from the period, and look at historical costume and hairstyles.  We will listen to music of Schubert and his contemporaries, and look at some of the poetry Schubert chose to set to music.

We will present our findings in a combination Schubertiade/salon/ball in a public performance near the end of the semester.   The evening will contain music, historical skits, dance, costume, games, and all will participate/contribute, each according to interests and abilities.

You do NOT have to be a dancer, singer, actor, poet, or musician in order to contribute.  You do NOT have to be a historian or a political scientist.  But if you have special interest or ability in any of these areas, that contribution will be welcome!