theorizing ge nde r, cultur e, and m us ic Judy Lochhead n the mid-1980s jean-luc nancy observed that "the sublime is in fashion" ( 1993, 25), reminding us that aesthetic categories have a history despite the tendency to naturalize and universalize aesthetic experience.1 In recent music studies the once moribund concepts of the sublime and its twin, the ineffable, have been resuscitated under the banner of postmodern thought, which in a single stroke claims them as both new and universal. As George Lakoff (1987) has demonstrated in his well-known Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, whose title I invoke here, categories in general are revealing about human understanding. Here I argue that the recent promotion of aesthetic categories of the sublime and the inef- fable reveals a disturbing trend toward concepts that are contrary to the philosophical and political goals of feminism.2 While various other scholarly domains have debated the conceptual value of these aesthetic concepts, such a debate is missing in music studies. This lack is "dangerous" to the extent it masks a regressive longing for an absolute--an absolute that, under the flag of the unpresentable, harbors a hidden and nostalgic return to repressive binaries of gender.
Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture – University of Nebraska Press
Published: Oct 29, 2008
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