Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Music Criticism


James Deaville


Beverly Diamond




The tangled relationship of art, gender, and power has a long history. When militant suffragette Mary Richardson attacked the "Rokeby" Venus in 1914--the epitomy of the "eternal feminine"--she was making a vivid statement about male authority, female exploitation, and the operations of power in society (Fowler 109). Feminist cultural critics of the last twenty years have sought to unmask the gender and political ideology embedded in literature, art, and film--an ideology which has served to privilege the masculine over the feminine, severely constraining women's creative opportunities.

The first full-length book on feminist music criticism was published January, 1991. Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality by Susan McClary was a long overdue feminist analysis of music ranging from Bach to Madonna. Its timely appearance coincided with radical stirrings within the musicological/music theory community as evidenced by the excitement generated by both specialized and broaderbased conferences which have acknowledged these new influences in their sessions.

While many excellent articles have been published on the subject of feminist music criticism,l no effort has been made to date to provide an historical context, definition, and in-depth investigation of this topic. Chapter 1 of this thesis will address the historical roots of feminist music criticism in the women's movement of the 1960s, other forms of feminist cultural criticism, and socially grounded criticism. Chapter 2 will investigate the building of historical resources of women in music over the past two decades. This exploration of gender and music in a historical context form the immediate backdrop to the entrance of feminist music criticism on the current scene. The music criticism of Susan McClary provides an occasion for more detailed probing of the subject in chapter 3, including a critical assessment of McClary's work. Finally, some preliminary conclusions are offered along with suggestions for the possible direction of feminist critical studies in music in the future.

McMaster University Library

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