Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Arnold Schoenberg's opera Erwartung op. 17 present.s it.self as an enigmatic object for musical analysis, due to its so-called "athematic" and "atonal" character. Given the opera's mix of nineteenth century romanticism and early twentieth century expressionism, its emphasis on the exploration of subjectivity. and its ostensibly psychoanalytic program, Erwartung is a particularly fecund subject for psychoanalytic music criticism, and in particular a Lacanian music criticism.
Though Erwartung was composed at the height of the psychoanalytic revolution in "Freud's Vienna," it is post-Freudian French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan's theory of the nature of the unconscious that offers a compelling psychoanalytic perspective on the opera. In order to use Lacanian theory to analyze Enwartung, an overview of Lacan's major psychoanalytic concepts, followed by critiques of his theory are offered. Remarks on the history of psychoanalysis as applied in critical practice, and on Lacan's own critical work, preface a discussion of examples of psychoanalytic music criticism. Schoenberg's opera is then conSidered in its historical context, taking into account. the influence of psychoanalysis on Schoenberg, his librettist, and his contemporaries. Finally, Lacanian theory is used in ail analysis of Erwartung's music and text, revealing the psychoanalytic principles of Otherness aIld alienation at work in the opera's structure.
The analysis of Erwartung results in conclusions that address not only this opera, but music as a whole questioning the role of the Unconscious in the production of musical texts, and also the role of music in the psychical constitution of the human subject.
Carpenter, Alexander, "Erwartung as Other: Schoenberg. Lacan, and Psychoanalytic Music Criticism" (1998). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6621.
McMaster University Library