Indeterminacy, Infinity, IrresolvabilityBook - 2009
Musically Sublime rewrites musically the history and philosophy of the sublime. Music enables us to reconsider the traditional course of sublime feeling on a track from pain to pleasure. Resisting the notion that there is a single format for sublime feeling, Wurth shows how, from the mid eighteenth century onward, sublime feeling is, instead, constantly rearticulated in a complex interaction with musicality.
Wurth takes as her point of departure Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment and Jean-Fran#65533;ois Lyotard's aesthetic writings of the 1980s and 1990s. Kant framed the sublime narratively as an epic of self-transcendence. By contrast, Lyotard sought to substitute open immanence for Kantian transcendence, yet he failed to deconstruct the Kantian epic. The book performs this deconstruction by juxtaposing eighteenth- and nineteenth-century conceptions of the infinite, Sehnsucht, the divided self, and unconscious drives with contemporary readings of instrumental music.
Critically assessing Edmund Burke, James Usher, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Novalis, Friedrich H#65533;lderlin, Arthur Schopenhauer, Richard Wagner, and Friedrich Nietzsche, this book re-presents the sublime as a feeling that defers resolution and hangs suspended between pain and pleasure. Musically Sublime rewrites the mathematical sublime as diff#65533;rance, while it redresses the dynamical sublime as trauma: unending, undetermined, unresolved.
Whereas most musicological studies in this area have focused on traces of the Kantian sublime in Handel, Haydn, and Beethoven, this book calls on the nineteenth-century theorist Arthur Seidl to analyze the sublime of, rather than in, music. It does so by invoking Seidl's concept of formwidrigkeit ("form-contrariness") in juxtaposition with Romantic piano music, (post)modernist musical minimalisms, and Lyotard's postmodern sublime. It presents a sublime of matter, rather than form-performative rather than representational. In doing so, Musically Sublime shows that the binary distinction Lyotard posits between the postmodern and romantic sublime is finally untenable.