Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)

Module MUSI3741: Music and Politics in France, 1789-1814

Department: Music

MUSI3741: Music and Politics in France, 1789-1814

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • MUSI2691 Historical Studies 2


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module will explore the transformation of musical life, as well as changes in musical forms and styles, during the cataclysmic period of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire. Module lectures and readings will invite wider reflection on issues of music and politics, propaganda and ideology, and on the relationship between aesthetic theories and discourse of the time and music production and performances. Students will also be encouraged to connect both broad narratives of music history and musical details to their wider historical context.


  • The module is structured around musical thought and practice as much as specific works. It will begin with an introduction to political uses of music in the ancien régime – such as monarchical representation at the opera – and will provide a background in eighteenth-century thought on musical meaning, including the theories of Rousseau, Diderot, and others. The French Revolution and its impact on music-making will then be investigated in detail, taking in French revolutionary song; 'official' cultural policy, ceremony and festivals; the reform of music education and the founding of the Paris conservatoire; revolutionary opera by composers including Gossec, Grétry, Méhul and Cherubini; the growth of popular music drama, in particular melodrama; and theories of spectatorship. Napoleon's reign in turn provides the opportunity to consider the perpetuation of the ancien régime in a variety of ways, not least in the form of 'propaganda' operas, and theatrical regulation.
  • Though the module is centred on France, it will also explore some wider continental ramifications of French developments, including the export of French opera and its influence (taking in Beethoven’s Fidelio), and the growth of the German tradition of communal singing. The module will also offer ways to reconsider larger narratives such as the beginnings of musical modernity, the nature of musical romanticism, and the emergence of musical nationalism.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students will have gained a familiarity with the range of French musical styles and genres in this period, and be able to compare and relate them to contemporary developments elsewhere. They will also have gained critical, historically informed perspectives on the study of ‘high’ and ‘low’ musical culture, and on the politics of music-making, and engaged with the large historical narratives associated with the period.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The module will further develop students' capacity to connect historically informed score-based analytical study with some of the larger historical claims surrounding the period in question.
Key Skills:
  • The development of a range of appropriate analytical and research skills, particularly the critical readings of texts both primary and secondary, together with the ability to articulate ideas in writing, whether in precis or essay form. Students will also be expected to develop presentational skills by working in groups for tutorials.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Directed reading e.g. set texts for lecture-seminars, and tutorials, which introduce them to a broad range of approaches to the subject matter.
  • Whole group lecture/seminars, including class discussion of readings to ensure the active participation of students and to develop critical reading skills.
  • Individual oral presentations within tutorials, which develop academic communication skills.
  • Literature review formative.
  • Assessment and issue-based tutorials which address creative and critical modes of engagement, leading students to develop original research questions, and honing their capacity for critique, logical argument and written eloquence.
  • Summative assessment on topics/issues of the students' choice, encouraging independence in research.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture/Seminars 10 Weekly in Michaelmas Term 2 hour 20
Group Tutorials 3 Across Michaelmas Term 1 hour 3
Individual Tutorials 1 Once in Michaelmas Term 15 minutes 0.25
Reading, listening and preparation 176.75

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
6,000 word essay 6,000 words 100% no

Formative Assessment:

In preparation for the summative assignment, students will be asked to submit a literature review, and prepare a short presentation on their proposed summative.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University