Faculty Research Forum: Doug Shadle, School of Music

“Cultural Imperialism and the Problem of National Identity in Nineteenth-Century American Symphonic Music”

When Jan 18, 2013
from 03:30 PM to 05:30 PM
Where Humanities 300
Contact Name
Contact Phone 852.8977
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Despite gaining political independence, the United States remained economically dependent on the British Empire well into the nineteenth century. As Kariann Akemi Yokota has recently argued, this radical dependence manifested itself in virtually all areas of culture—from home furnishings and clothing styles to scientific inquiry and racial logic. Yet the nation’s continued cultural marginalization can easily seem overshadowed by its simultaneous emergence as an aggressive colonizer, and eventually as an imperial power. Within the broader transatlantic economies of music and musical culture in the nineteenth century, U.S. autonomy was far from a settled issue, and dualistic understandings of the American postcolonial experience are inadequate for explaining its nebulous status.  Like their counterparts in other artistic arenas such as literature and painting, American musicians pursued agendas of postcolonial nation building (and even colonial aggression), but the predominantly German ethnic makeup of important segments of the nation’s musical culture challenged these aspirations of autonomy. Indeed, many Europeans continued to perceive the United States as a potential site of cultural colonization and acted accordingly.


Using three case studies from the period 1850–1880, this presentation examines the various roles played by the United States within transatlantic musical discourses and argues that symphonic music in particular contributed significantly to the construction of contested national identities.

Doug Shandle is visiting assistant professor in Music History.  A specialist in American classical music, Shadle is currently completing a book manuscript entitled The Nineteenth-Century American Symphony.   

Faculty Research Forum, an ongoing project of the Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society (CCHS), offers research-based talks for an interdisciplinary audience by UofL faculty and occasional guests.  It includes a presentation followed by a lively Q&A, fueled by various sorts of refreshments.