Musical Structure, Narrative, and Gender in Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé

Russell Millard

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

2753 Downloads (Pure)


This thesis seeks to contribute towards the emerging discourse in Ravel studies concerning gender, as well as adding to the ongoing work in musical narratology, especially as regards ballet, to which very little narratological attention has been given. Employing a combination of narratological and Schenkerian analysis, this thesis argues that there are significant moments of divergence between the gendered narratives outlined by the libretto and the music in Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé. These ‘meaning gaps’ are freighted with the hermeneutic potential of Riffaterre’s ‘ungrammaticalities’, constituting a ‘guideline to semiosis’. The work is examined as an example of transvaluation, in which the musical score is understood to call into question the gendered cultural values inscribed in the libretto.
Five scenes from the ballet are considered in detail. An examination of the dance contest between Daphnis and Dorcon (Chapter 3) explores isomorphisms between narrative and voice-leading structures, and processes of tonicisation are investigated as instances of transvaluation. This scene is also considered from a broader cultural and historical context, informed by fin-de-siècle constructions of masculinity. The examination of masculinity is developed in an analysis of the ‘War Dance’ (Chapter 4), which also considers the broader significance of the god Pan.
Lyceion’s dance is contextualised as part of the contemporary ‘Salome craze’, and a close analytical reading of the ‘Pantomime’ (Chapter 5) draws out some of the more significant divorces between the narratives of the libretto and the music. Chloe emerges as a narrative subject in her own right, with Daphnis posited as narrative antisubject. Finally (Chapter 6), an analysis of Chloe’s ‘Danse suppliante’ examines the gendered connotations of the waltz. The readings proposed by these analyses suggest an emergent function for the music in Daphnis et Chloé, acting as a counter-discourse to the doxical narrative outlined by the libretto.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Downes, Stephen, Supervisor
Award date1 Mar 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


  • Musical structure
  • Narrative
  • Gender
  • French music
  • Ravel
  • Third Republic France
  • Ballet
  • Dance
  • Narratology
  • Musical analysis
  • Nijinsky
  • Ballets Russes
  • Pan
  • Salome
  • Daphnis & Chloe
  • Schenker
  • Musical semiotics
  • Greimas
  • Modernism
  • Fokine
  • Musical narrative

Cite this