Miss Katie Cattell

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Katie is currently writing up her AHRC-funded PhD. Katie's first degree was in German and music, and this background has strongly influenced her thesis. Katie is also one of the five founding members of the group Critical Theory for Musicology.

Thesis Abstract

The central aim of this thesis is to explore some of the main concepts behind Schubert scholarship by using the work of two philosophical figures: Theodor W. Adorno and Martin Heidegger. A continued and still-prevalent consideration in Schubert scholarship is the comparison between Beethoven and Schubert, leading to sustained calls to examine Schubert’s music from a perspective that can in some way be deemed Schubertian rather than Beethovenian. In sympathy with such calls, this thesis is going to take several concepts now widely accepted to be central to Schubert’s musical processes (fragmentation, repetition, identity, wandering and homecoming) and use them as a starting-point for a philosophical exploration of Schubert’s music. 

Much of what is now constitutes the lexicon for discussing Schubert’s musical processes can be traced back to the writings of Theodor W. Adorno, starting with his 1928 essay ‘Schubert’. Taking this essay as a starting-point, this thesis uses Adorno’s writing on Schubert to begin an exploration of concepts crucial to Adorno’s understanding of Schubert. This, in turn, offers the possibility to explore Schubert’s music in a way that does not demand it is measured against an constructed aesthetic that purports to be essentially Beethovenian. Adorno’s writing is undoubtedly compelling in relation to some aspects of Schubert’s music. It is, however, not without specific philosophical problems that are not easily resolved, such as Adorno’s interpretation of repetition in relation to musical development.

 In response to some of these problems, the thesis then turns to another philosopher: Martin Heidegger. Heidegger’s philosophy, while not, of course, directly linked to music, provides a very different way in which to consider ideas of wandering, homecoming, repetition and identity. His work explores such concepts in relation to his understanding of Being, thus providing an alternative model for considering Schubert’s musical forms rather than the issues surrounding an Adornian-Hegelian dialectic (often explored in relation to Beethoven’s forms), although Heidegger’s response to the Hegelian tradition will be addressed. By using the work of both Heidegger and Adorno, it is hoped that such a further understanding of such philosophical categories and the way they operate in Schubert’s music will be reached.


Katie has previously taught on the first-year courses MU1110: Theory and Analysis, MU1111: Practical Musicianship, MU1114: A Very Short History of Music, MU1115: Historical Musicology and the second year course MU2002: Studies in Music History.

Since 2015, she has also worked as the Music Tutor on the International Foundation Year at Royal Holloway's International Study Centre.

Educational Background

MA by Research in German, Distinction - Royal Holloway University of London 2012-2013, Dissertation: Identity, Subjectivity, and Temporality in Variation Form: A Musical and Philosophical Enquiry

BA (Hons) German and Music, First with Distinction in German Language - Royal Holloway, University of London 2008-2012

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