Music, History, Politics: From Realism to Postmodernism

Course Information
TitleΜουσική, Ιστορία, Πολιτική: Από τον Ρεαλισμό στον Μεταμοντερνισμό / Music, History, Politics: From Realism to Postmodernism
FacultySocial and Economic Sciences
SchoolPolitical Sciences
Cycle / Level1st / Undergraduate, 2nd / Postgraduate
Teaching PeriodWinter
CoordinatorSpyros Marchetos
Course ID100001326

Class Information
Academic Year2018 – 2019
Class PeriodWinter
Faculty Instructors
Weekly Hours3
Class ID
Course Type 2011-2015
Knowledge Deepening / Consolidation
Mode of Delivery
  • Face to face
Digital Course Content
The course is also offered to exchange programme students.
Language of Instruction
  • Greek (Instruction, Examination)
  • English (Examination)
  • French (Examination)
  • Italian (Examination)
General Prerequisites
No special prerequisites, beyond the expected interest in music, politics and history.
Learning Outcomes
In this course you will obtain a historically informed view of the political and social problems and notions in the ages of Absolutism, of the French Revolution, of Classicism, of Romanticism, and of the older European national movements. Thus you will be able to interpret their crystallization in ‘high’ forms of artistic creation. You will be introduced to modern research in the field of social history of music, and especially of the articulation of social and political ideas with certain forms of music. You will be able to connect forms of ‘high’ cultural expression with contemporary political and social ideas and notions.
General Competences
  • Apply knowledge in practice
  • Retrieve, analyse and synthesise data and information, with the use of necessary technologies
  • Adapt to new situations
  • Make decisions
  • Work autonomously
  • Work in teams
  • Work in an international context
  • Work in an interdisciplinary team
  • Generate new research ideas
  • Appreciate diversity and multiculturality
  • Respect natural environment
  • Demonstrate social, professional and ethical commitment and sensitivity to gender issues
  • Be critical and self-critical
  • Advance free, creative and causative thinking
Course Content (Syllabus)
In this introductory course we approach the European intellectual, political, and social history through the prism of a particular type of music making, opera –“an exotic and irrational amusement”, according to Dr. Johnson. We do not aim for a musicological approach, or for an all-encompassing history of opera. What we do is to use opera as a medium for examining the ways in which social and political problems were thought and discussed in particular societies, from the era of Absolutism to the nineteenth century nationalist movements. The main loci of our course are the aristocratic opera of Florence, the commercial opera of Venice, the court opera of Naples, London and Paris; opera and the Enlightenment; opera and the French Revolution; opera and Romanticism; opera and nation. Class, gender, religion, nation, and race questions are discussed throughout, as well as orientalist and colonialist perceptions. We regularly visit the different temporalities combined in each opera performance –its composition time, the time in which the plot is placed by the composer, the internal time of musical moments, the time in which the particular performance is located, the time of the performance, and our own historical and personal time. Most people think of opera as a musical form corresponding to sensitivites of previous times, with critics such as Slavoj Zizek placing its golden age in the nineteenth century. In our course however we focus on opera before the nineteenth century, thus practically skipping the period best known to most people, as well as important names such as Rossini’s or Wagner’s. We highlight the remarkable renaissance of opera today, and the ability of modern performances not only to acquaint us with the politics of the past, but also to speak directly and forcefully to a contemporary audience. Composers most discussed in our course will be Monteverdi and Cavalli, Purcell and Pepusch, Vivaldi and Haendel, Salieri and Mozart, and then Mussorgsky and Rimsky Korsakoff. Our directors of reference are Rene Jacobs, William Christie, Alan Curtis, Crzystoph Warlikowsky, and Peter Sellars, while our basic textbook is Richard Taruskin’s Oxford History of Western Music. No previous familiarity with the world of the opera is expected from the students; a serious interest in it would be enough. In order to make our course more interesting, we do not follow a strict chronological order in presentation, and we articulate lessons around exciting performances of operas available with greek or english subtitles. Since the latter are not always the most interesting ones from a musical point of view, we complement them with excerpts from other musically exceptional performances. Each three-hour lesson starts with the presentation of an opera, placing it in context. Then we view a landmark performance, and discuss it trying to explain the conditions of its creation, to interpret its multiple meanings in its own era and in subsequent ones, and to present the various ways in which we may view it today. This course is complemented in a different semester by another seminary course covering the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, "Music, History, Politics. Realism, Modernism, and Beyond".
opera, Absolutism, Enlightenment, Romanticism, Classicism, Orientalism, nation, music, history, politics, baroque, rokoko, Claudio Monteverdi, Henry Purcell, Georg Friendrich Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, sex, social classes, capitalism, revolution, colonialism
Educational Material Types
  • Video lectures
  • Audio
  • Multimedia
  • Book
Use of Information and Communication Technologies
Use of ICT
  • Use of ICT in Course Teaching
Course Organization
Reading Assigment
Student Assessment
Examinations are taken in writing, in Greek or in English. They include two separate questions, which must all be answered in lengthy answers, requiring the use of historical judgment. Answers must be given in a clear logical structure, with articulated argumentation. They must combine relevant elements from the materials of our Course and the lectures attended, as well as from your general knowledge and your interaction with current affairs. They must show that you studied in depth the issues examined in this Course, exercising your judgment and avoiding the use of cliches, stereotypical expressions, or generalities. Essays marked with the grade 'excellent' show a critical spirit and are characterised by clarity and concision. A passing grade requires proven knowledge of the basic pragmatological elements of our Course. Essays not showing a serious study of the required texts fail. All operas presented in our course are also available on the internet, in websites like youtube, and in order to pass the course you must have watched them. Essays showing the opposite get a fail.
Student Assessment methods
  • Written Exam with Extended Answer Questions (Summative)
Course Bibliography (Eudoxus)
Additional bibliography for study
Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music, vols 3-4, Oxford University Press 2010. Ιδίως τα κεφάλαια τα οποία αφορούν την όπερα.
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