The use of logic and rhetoric in Handel’s selection and adaptation of source material

Date

2018-11-05

Authors

Szeker-Madden, Maria Anne Lisa

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Abstract

The issues surrounding Handel's borrowing practices have been the subject of much debate over the last three centuries. Unfortunately, the field is rife with contradictions, speculation, and theories that have only a limited applicability. This dissertation provides a new approach to the study of Handel's borrowing practices by applying a methodology that would have been familiar to Handel and the elite members of his audiences—one that employs the principles of Aristotelian logic, textual rhetoric and musical rhetoric. This type of methodology can be applied successfully to miscellaneous vocal to vocal borrowings that span the composer's entire career. The first part of the dissertation provides the background for the ensuing study by examining the educations of Handel and his audience members. Chapter 1 outlines the various curricula available during Handel's lifetime and confirms that Handel and his more privileged contemporaries followed one which featured instruction in Aristotelian logic, textual rhetoric and musical rhetoric. Chapter 2 verifies that students at various European centres studied these principles during their adolescent years. The final chapter of this part discusses each of these principles in detail and provides the raw methodological material for this study. The second part of the dissertation takes the principles gleaned from Part 1 and employs contemporary commentary to mould them into a viable methodology for the study of Handel's borrowing practices. The analyses included in this part not only provide comprehensive musical-rhetorical and musico-dramatic discussions, but also provide rigorous examinations of source and new poetic texts. Analysis of the poetic texts represents a vital first step in this study. It reveals the poetic themes of a source and its new version and establishes that it is the location (topos) of these themes within the categories of Aristotelian logic that determines the appropriateness of a source as well as the degree to which it is altered in a new work. Appendix 1 provides tables that summarise the analyses of Handel's borrowings from each chapter of Part 2. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the vocabulary of Aristotelian logic, textual rhetoric and musical rhetoric, a glossary of all terminology as it is employed in this dissertation has been included.

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Keywords

Communication and the arts, Rhetoric, Borrowings, George Frideric Handel

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