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!


From the Director's Desk

Dear Alums,

Welcome to the Alumni section of our new Web site. If you look through our Web site you can learn about our most recent Honors events and find descriptions of current Honors classes. Your feedback and suggestions for improvement are welcome!

Although we still adhere to the basic format of four required Honors courses plus a thesis, the number and diversity of the classes has grown to the point where this year we are offering 20-plus different Honors sections and we now have over 60 theses produced each year!

If you are ever in the neighborhood, please stop in and say hello. Now that Epworth is torn down the Observatory really stands out. We have redocorated the Honors Library to a more comfortable lounge/study area. Our more than 250 Honors students use the old Observatory as their second home—having 24-hour access works very well for them.

I would also like to discuss with you meaningful ways to involve you in our program and have you share your ideas and expertise with current students. Why not drop us a line or a note on Facebook?


Dr. E. Dale Kennedy

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