Talk:Susan McClary

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Beethoven's 9thEdit

Sorry about truncated comment on last revision; I hit a key by mistake...

I moved discussion of Robert Walser off of the McClary page, so it won't look to anybody that we might be defining Prof. McClary as the wife of her husband.

Hyacinth, do you think you could maybe take on the big controversy that arose over McClary's discussion of the Ninth Symphony and the depiction of the feelings of a frustrated rapist? It's certainly something Prof. McClary is well known for, but it's material is so intense that one would have to be very careful in doing it in NPOV form.

Opus33 02:00, 10 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Oy! Contrary to popular anti-New Musicology opinions (ick, double ick triple ick), McClary did NOT declare the Beethoven's Ninth a model of rape, that distinction instead goes to another woman (who's name eludes me). At one point McClary apparently did agree as she wrote in an article: "The point of recapitulation in the first movement in the Ninth is one of the most horrifying moments in music, as the carefully prepared cadence is frustrated, damming up energy which finally explodes in the throttling, murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release." However, she seems to have mellowed by the time she wrote Feminine Endings and she praised Beethoven in Conventional Wisdom.
Anyways, I really would love to describe McClary's writings in depth (I started the article on her in the first place), but it won't happen anytime soon. Once I feel like reading her books again (which will happen), I will discuss and summarize.Hyacinth 02:32, 10 Jan 2004 (UTC)
Thanks, Hyacinth. I've seen other links like your "ick" cases. The challenge in writing up this episode, if the task ever gets done, would be to cover the whole range of opinion. The right wingers such as you cite certainly took the famous passage as a handy tool for bashing modern humanities scholars, but there are other communities whose opinion one would also want to include, such as traditional musicologists (see recent article by Steven Lubin in Early Music) or a certain fraction of the people who were upset by the passage in question simply because they venerate Beethoven and love his music. I hope you enjoy your further exploration of the McClary oeuvre and that you will contribute further to a high-quality NPOV presentation of her work. Opus33 05:09, 10 Jan 2004 (UTC)
See Constructions of Subjectivity in Schubert's Music. Hyacinth 01:44, 20 Apr 2004 (UTC)

The one thing that seems to be missing is the suggestion that McClary, like many before, proposed a hypothesis of what the piece was "about" and that this need not be insulting. People often disagree on what pieces, books, movies, 'real' events, etc. are "about". There are many ways of listening and interpreting, and users of different ways often come to the "opposite" conclusions, and this is usually considered okay, a part of the subjectivity that is often valued in art and other fields. Hyacinth 00:51, 16 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Hi Hyacinth, in the most recent revision I tried to back off a bit on the "insulting" part. I hope this helps.
Even so, I have to say that if I had written the Ninth Symphony myself (fat chance!), I would feel really, really insulted by what McClary said. Wouldn't you? Of course we'll never know what Beethoven himself would have thought... Yours very truly, Opus33 07:23, 16 Nov 2004 (UTC)
That would be the other thing that is missing, the suggestion that maybe Beethoven intended to depict rape and would be, if still living, happy to find someone discover this. Hyacinth 05:59, 17 Nov 2004 (UTC)

It is pretty safe to say that Beethoven had nothing to say about rape in the 9th and doubtful he'd have anything to say to anyone with such wonky and unsupportable interpretations. Gingermint (talk) 05:37, 8 February 2010 (UTC)

Greeting, I'm a newcomer to this discussion, & am just learning how to enter this stuff. I've just added a few comments to the Susan McClary page, in hope of answering the complaint that the page reads "like an advertisement." My additions may seem a bit jarring and out of step with what's already on the page (I didn't remove anything), but the article DOES read like an advertisement... Oldpeacenik (talk) 17:59, 8 September 2010 (UTC)
Me again -- I just removed a line that was made redundant by my discussion of the Paula Higgins article. Oldpeacenik (talk) 13:18, 11 September 2010 (UTC)

Robert Anton Wilson is Right Wing?Edit

I edited "Hostile reactions were posted on the Web by commentators whose politics are evidently right-wing" to remove the part about the commentators being right wing. One of the examples is by Robert Anton Wilson, who I don't think can be characterized as right-wing by any definition (for evidence: [1]). Such a blanket statement as to say the commentators are "evidently right-wing" is untrue and unfair. When one of the links given provides an obvious counterexample to the claim there is an obvious lack of research .--Head of the Caligula Appreciation Society 06:34, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

Speaking of jumping to conclusions, perhaps someone or some people actually thinks RAW is right wing (at least relative to McClary) or that in this instance he is being right wing. Perhaps the person was (or people were) unfamiliar with RAW (as you assume). Perhaps the person momentarily forgot having added him to the list and then made the generalization. Perhaps one editor made that quite accurate description and later someone added RAW's article to the list without modifying the now inaccurate description.
The statement is easily enough fixed by inserting most: "by commentators, most of whom are politically conservative." I find it surprising that you would accuse someone who provided those links (and then attempted to describe them) of not doing research. That contributor gave no evidence of their assertion that RAW was right wing, just as you have not given any evidence of your contrary assertion. However, that editor or those editors did take the time to do some research and find those articles, and rather than simply placing them in the article they attempted to briefly describe the links, and I find no fault in that. Hyacinth 19:25, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

Quite apart from the possible right-wingedness of Robert Anton Wilson: does Hyacinth really think McClary is relatively left-wing? That seems to be the basis of McClary considerable cachet, but it's a notion that numerous prominent music scholars have disputed in rather robust fashion. That's why I inserted some snippits from Higgins, Kingsbury, and Barkin, each of whom, in various ways, interpret McClary's politics as dogmatic, authoritarian, and even dangerous. Barkin came first, and she set the tone, but many have followed her lead (and many more have silently nodded in assent). Oldpeacenik (talk) 23:02, 8 September 2010 (UTC)


This is a really crazy article. She is a footnote in musicology at best but the writer of the article presents her as the feminist second coming of Allen Forte. There are few citations, and in general the article is way too long and lop-sided. It is so glowing that one suspects Susan McClary wrote it. Gingermint (talk) 05:35, 8 February 2010 (UTC)

Actually, I just read through it and came to an opposite conclusion to yours about authorship. Perhaps it's changed since you read it, but it reads as if the author is trying to argue against her ideas. Also, I'd argue that she is at least important enough to have an entry here - perhaps we could agree that the length here is excessive and it's poorly written overall (even without bias issues).-- (talk) 18:26, 27 July 2010 (UTC)
to describe McClary as a musicology footnote is to not know musicology. Love her or hate her, she's at the centre of the New Musicology which revolutionised the field (along with Kerman, Leppert, et al.)--she didn't get a McArthur Genius Grant for nothing (only one of two musicologists ever). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:54, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

Constructions of Subjectivity in Franz Schubert's MusicEdit

This article was to be merged into this one. See the notice above. This never happened so I am going to make the page into a redirect and paste the actual text of the page below in case anyone wants to recycle part of the material. Thank you. --Kleinzach 02:53, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

'Constructions of Subjectivity in Franz Schubert's Music' was originally a presentation in which musicologist Susan McClary set about to discuss how Franz Schubert's music may have been affected by his sexuality. At the time she was influenced by Maynard Solomon's allegations of Schuberts same-sex erotic activities in his "Franz Schubert and the Peacocks of Benvenuto Cellini." Following a presentation at the American Musicological Society in 1990 and a much sanitized but ill received version to the annual Schubertiade in 1992 the latter safe version was printed in the Gay/Lesbian Study Group Newsletter. Following evidence against Solomon's conclusions, the essay was renamed, again revised, and printed in Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology.

She begins the essay with a clarification of its history and where she now stands regarding the issues in the paragraph above before continuing to discuss her ideas on Schubert's possibly exclusive same-sex sexuality and alleged self-identification as (to put it anachronistically) a gay man. She then discusses how attempting to read his sexuality from his music would be essentialism, but that it may be possible to notice intentional ways in which Schubert may have chosen to compose so as to express his difference deliberately as a part of himself at a time when, "'the self' began to become prominent in the arts." Schubert's music and often himself and the subjectivity presented have been criticized as effeminate, especially in comparison to the model and aggressive master of sonata form Beethoven (Sir George Grove, after Schumann: "compared with Beethoven, Schubert is as a woman to a man", Carl Dahlhaus: "weak" and "involuntary"). "In any case, what is at issue is not Schubert's deviance from a "straight" norm, but rather his particular constructions of subjectivity, especially as they contrast with many of those posed by his peers." (p. 214)

According to McClary, Schubert, in the second movement of his "Unfinished" Symphony forgoes the usual narrative of the sonata form by "wandering" from one key area to another in a manner which does not consolidate the tonic, but without causing its violent reaffirmation: "What is remarkable about this movement is that Schubert conceives of and executes a musical narrative that does not enact the more standard model in which a self strives to define identity through the consolidation of ego a Beethovian world such a passage would sound vulnerable, its tonal identity not safely anchored; and its ambiguity would probably precipitate a crisis, thereby justifying the violence needed to put things right again." (page 215) In regard to chromaticism and its resolution he "tends to disdain goal-orientated desire per se for the sake of a sustained image of pleasure and an open, flexible sense of self--both of which are quite alien to the constructions of masculinity then being adopted as natural, and also to the premises of musical form as they were commonly construed at the time."

She then compares these strategies found in Schubert's music with those Earl Jackson noted in 'New Narrative' author Robert Glück: rather than "clear dichotomies, active and passive roles, constant reinforcement of ego boundaries, and avoidance of experiences such as ecstasy or pleasure that threaten to destabilize the autonomous self...Jackson describes gay male sexuality in terms of 'a dialectic based on an intersubjective which self and other intermesh.'"

"Although we often speak of Schubert as if he managed to transmit his own subjective feelings directly into his music, these "feelings" had to be constructed painstakingly from the stuff of standard tonality." (page 223)

"It does seem clear that Schubert--for whatever reason--was producing constructions of male subjectivity that differed markedly from most of those that surrounded him."

Before closing her essay McClary does point out that while the second movement of the "Unfinished" Symphony is utopian Schubert also produced many "victim narratives" in which the flexible sense of self is crushed as if by outside forces such as a homophobic society hostile to models of masculinity which do not conform to the heroic model crystallized in music by Beethoven. She also discusses the many factors besides being, allegedly, a gay man, which would have contributed to Schubert's wish to construct his alternative models, such as his being fat and short (seized upon by Schubertiade goers), his syphilis, and similarities to contemporary literary narratives and notions of subjectivity which would provide a cultural, rather than personal, reason.

McClary's ideas on Schubert have generated considerable controversy, not least because of the absence of evidence of Schubert actually being gay; many critics do not take her ideas seriously.

Source: *McClary, Susan (1994). Constructions of Subjectivity in Schubert's Music, Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. ISBN 0-415-90753-5.

  • Comment Re-direct was a good idea. Actually, I already had 'merged' it in a way - during the the AfD discussion. I wrote a section in this article about the essay, with a short summary of the ideas in it, its various versions, and the documented reaction to it with inline citations. Voceditenore (talk) 06:27, 5 December 2008 (UTC)


(See also the most recent comments in the ReWrite and Robert Anton Wilson is Right Wing? sections above.) I have removed the {{advert}} tag. The article is considerably more balanced now, although still a mess. It was begun in 2003 and has been edited by many people in a more or less piecemeal fashion over the past 7 years, which probably explains its current state. It needs a lot of work to improve the organization and to remove the excessive detail, essay-like material, and personal opinions/commentary. The referencing/citation is both inconsistent and inadequate in several places and likewise needs a lot of work. Voceditenore (talk) 16:33, 11 September 2010 (UTC)

Very Strange Section about her Beethoven quotationEdit

So, this is an essay, not something suitable for wikipedia. I'm adding

. Best, -- (talk) 09:29, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

How so? Hyacinth (talk) 07:20, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

Autobiographical article and the missing Beethoven quoteEdit

Project Muse has provided (at least for the time being) open access for the latest issue of Acta Musicologica which has a lead autobiographical article by McClary: Apparently nearing retirement, she reflects on the totality of her professional life. She does not shy away from the big controversy concerning Beethoven and her characterization of the 9th symphony. She says: "My most notorious moment—the one that takes up most of the space in my Wikipedia entry, the one that will no doubt dominate my obituary..." But all references to the "notorious moment" have now been removed from the article, so that someone seeking to see "what is this notorious statement?" will now come away confused, not seeing even a reference to it. Might it be time to put the statement back into the article but couched very carefully, explaining how it developed notoreity by being taken out of context? - kosboot (talk) 16:27, 17 April 2020 (UTC)

This article was substantially cut on 4 April 2020. The cut bit about the Ninth had some problems which could be rectified. I don't see much wrong with the cut bit about Schubert. Anyway, all the missing text should be restored and improved – it's obviously a large part of her public persona. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 06:17, 18 April 2020 (UTC)
Agree with Michael Bednarek. Voceditenore (talk) 09:35, 18 April 2020 (UTC)
I restored the Beethoven section wholesale. I would like to do a bit more based on that recent article, although I saw somewhere that @Hyacinth: has a particular interest in this article and would defer to them. - kosboot (talk) 00:50, 19 April 2020 (UTC)


I'm bothered that the list of sources is free text rather than the structured text provided by the various formula at WP:CIT. If I have time over the weekend, I propose to convert the list to the structured format as well as the loose footnotes not mentioned in the sources. I'd like to do the footnotes as well, replacing the free text with SFN style. There are a few people who think HARV is better, but the reverse is true: sfn was created as an improvement on harv and is more flexible. - kosboot (talk) 16:53, 24 April 2020 (UTC)

Return to "Susan McClary" page.