Schubert, Sonata Theory, Psychoanalysis: Traversing the Fantasy in Schubert's Sonata Forms

Christopher Tarrant

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Franz Schubert has been the subject of much debate in recent decades, from analytical, biographical, and hermeneutic perspectives. In the context of the emergence and ongoing engagement with James Hepokoski’s and Warren Darcy’s Elements of Sonata Theory, it is especially timely now to attempt a reassessment of Schubert’s instrumental music. The present critical consensus among Schubert scholars is that his treatment of sonata form presents a strong critique of Beethoven’s practice - a practice which has formed the basis of music analysis from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, including Sonata Theory. The thesis investigates how Schubert’s sonata forms interact with Hepokoski’s and Darcy’s Sonata Theory, and attempts a critical reappraisal of Schubert’s construction as the ‘anti-Beethovenian’. Hepokoski’s and Darcy’s theory provides a framework for analytical engagement with a wide range of musics from the mid-eighteenth to the late-nineteenth centuries, and also sets the foundations for a more interpretative approach which goes far beyond merely structural taxonomy. In the course of the thesis, an extensive investigation into the vast array of forms that Schubert composed will lay the foundations for a more developed reappraisal of Schubert’s music along more humanistic lines.

The thesis opens with an analysis of Schubert’s String Quartet in G, D. 887, which posits that there are a number of observable inconsistencies and ambiguities which provide a foothold for further interpretation. After an appraisal of Schubert’s current standing in the literature in Chapter 2, and in light of a complete analysis of Schubert’s sonata output in Chapter 3, Chapter 4 aims to supplement and critique the theoretical underpinning already established in Elements of Sonata Theory. The interpretative aspect of the thesis is grounded in theories of intertextuality and psychoanalysis which are developed in Chapter 5, drawing principally on theories from Lacan and Žižek. The practical application of this research is demonstrated in Chapters 6 and 7, which demonstrate the benefits of this newly theorised approach.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Harper-Scott, J. P. E., Supervisor
Award date1 Mar 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015

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