KEYNOTE – Posthumanism and the Transformation of Romantic Spirit

Saturday, Feb 25, 2023

13:15 p.m. - 17:30 p.m.

The most infamous legacy of Romantic thought is probably the concept of spirit, or Geist – a term that conjures up anything from the Hegelian evolution of consciousness to the swoons of nineteenth-century music lovers carried away to the “ideal realm” of their favorite art.  As dated as such notions may seem, casual discourse about music continues to trade in references to spirit, soul, and other metaphysical concepts.  And despite the overwhelmingly materialist bent of the humanities at present, recent work in fields ranging from anthropology to philosophy has sought to articulate how such phenomena as emergence (Terrence Deacon) and “the incorporeal” (Elizabeth Grosz) operate in the absence of subjectivity and cognition conceived along humanist lines.  This paper places these developments in dialogue with Romantic thought about music, asking whether its vaunted “soul-states” and movements of the spirit can be transposed into a register more attuned to the conceptual possibilities of posthumanism.

Holly Watkins

Holly Watkins is Professor of Musicology at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester (New York).  She is the author of Musical Vitalities: Ventures in a Biotic Aesthetics of Music (Chicago, 2018) and Metaphors of Depth in German Musical Thought: From E. T. A. Hoffmann to Arnold Schoenberg (Cambridge, 2011).  She has published articles on Romantic and modernist aesthetics, music and ecology, and intersections between music and philosophy in such venues as the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Nineteenth-Century Music, New Literary History, Women and Music, Opera Quarterly, and Contemporary Music Review.  In 2010-11, Watkins held a Harrington Faculty Fellowship at The University of Texas at Austin, and in 2014-15, she received a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies to support work on Musical Vitalities.