What did people do for fun in the years around 1800? Music was a central element of entertainment both within and outside the home. The module uses Jane Austen's fiction, correspondence and personal music collection as a springboard for exploring British musical culture. Starting with musical scenes in Austen's novels and the contents of her family's music collection, we will consider the spaces and occasions for musical performance, and the role of music in gentry sociability and family life. The module is particularly suitable for students in Music, History, and English, and is open to all other university students. Music reading ability is useful but is not necessary for successful completion of the module.
We will discuss music's role in the 'accomplishments' advocated in female education; dance and ballroom culture; male musical activity and the role of catch and glee clubs in masculine sociability; the work of female poets and musicians for the domestic musical market; the intersection of public theatre and concert music with musical life in the home; music for children and understandings of childhood; and the changing historical understanding of categories such as 'professional' and 'amateur' in music. We will investigate the contents of the Austen family music books and compare them to other music books of the time that are held in the university's Hartley Library Archive, giving you an opportunity to gain first-hand insight into 18th-century musical sources. Using available student instrumental/vocal specialisms, we will perform and listen live to some of these repertories to gain further insight into the nature and function of domestic music making. (Note: performance participation is on a voluntary basis and is not required for successful completion of the module; appropriately qualified students may be offered the opportunity to repeat their performances at Chawton House Library.)