Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Fine Arts




Jin Cao


In the 1990s, Susan McClary brought feminist music criticism into the public eye by challenging the roots of traditional musicology with her book Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality. In this book, she concludes that notions of masculinity and femininity were shaped by social ideas, as well as by notions of gender dissimilarity and discrimination, initially dominated by male artists.

As the first generation of female composers to grow up in the context of public concerts, Clara Schumann, Fanny Hensel, and Josephine Lang, are clearly characterized by their originality and representative musical styles. Therefore, this paper selects works from their mature period and applies relevant comparative textual-musical analyses to explore "their" femininity imagery. Through the notation, musical rhetoric, and textual settings, we study and refine the composer's creative characteristics and design intentions, so as to apply them to the analysis of singing.

Summary for Lay Audience

In this paper, we will compare traditional music research methods with contemporary analysis, drawing on the art song analysis method, from text to music and from music to text, respectively, in order to corroborate women's influence on the art song, starting from the musical symbols with gender qualities summarized by Susan and other scholars. The study also draws on the analysis of art songs in Word and Music Studies: Defining the Field to demonstrate women's construction of art song narratives from text to music and music to text. It also draws on letters, diaries, manuscripts, and music criticism that have survived to the present day, in order to identify the attribution of their compositional consciousness and to provide a deeper musical expression for the performers.

The paper will be analyzed in four chapters. The first chapter is an introduction, which summarizes the relevant literature from the perspectives of feminist music criticism, studies of the works of female composers in the nineteenth century, studies of the art songs of each of the three composers, and analysis of the art song texts, and discusses the significance and content of the selected topic. The second section, on the context of composition, will review the creative environment of female composers in the mid-nineteenth century, taking three representative composers, Clara Schumann, Fanny Hensel, and Josephine Lang, as examples, and explore the factors that shaped their musical styles to set the stage for Chapter three. Based on Susan McClary's summary of female musical notation, the third chapter will analyze three representative works of the three female composers in their mature period, reproduce their musical notation through three dimensions of "appropriation, subversion and questioning", and derive their common stylistic characteristics. In the fourth chapter, the compositional characteristics derived from the previous chapter will be applied to the study of vocal singing, seeking the technical requirements of these feminine styles in singing.