Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Graduate Research Colloquium: Barbara Eichner (Oxford Brookes)

October 12 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pm


‘Infirm singers and dyslexic Dominicans: disability, liturgy and music in late-medieval and early-modern nunneries and monasteries’

Register here.

In the past two decades disability studies have become sensitive to the particular conditions of pre-modern European history, including the very notion of “disability” as a modern medical concept. Likewise historical musicology has investigated medieval composers who were known (though not necessarily stigmatised) as crippled or blind (Cuthbert 2016) or music’s role in shaping early-modern notions of madness and melancholy (Bassler 2012, 2016). This paper proposes to add the perspective of monks and nuns whose ability to meet the core obligation of monastic life, the performance of the liturgy, was called into question by their contemporaries. Using the environmental model formulated by Wendy Turner, I will consider the cloister as a space whose particular needs – the Opus Dei – both enabled and disabled those who lived in it. Especially at the point of entrance an individual’s aptitude – spiritual, physical, intellectual – to fulfil the exacting work of chanting the liturgy was scrutinised. This included the reading of liturgical books, which several Dominican nuns found beyond them until they experienced saintly intervention. Physical integrity was particularly important for prospective monks, as a lame discantist at Thierhaupten monastery and the son of Habsburg court chapel master Johann Stadlmayr had to learn the hard way. Infirmity in monastic communities intersects with age, social status and gender: a dowry of 1,000 fl. helped blind Barbara von Zimmern to become a canoness at Inzigkofen, but the chronicles from the convent and the family respectively disagree on the role she played in the religious and musical life of the community. In contrast, once a nun or monk had joined the monastery, they benefitted from excellent healthcare and a supportive community which, as the Paula Merend experienced at Inzigkofen several generations later when she used her sense of hearing after many decades as sacristan and novice mistress.

Dr Barbara Eichner is Reader in Music at Oxford Brookes University. Her research falls into two main areas: on the one hand, she works on music and nationalism in the 19th century, the stage works of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss, and the reception of medieval and early-modern stories in 19th-century music. Her monograph History in Mighty Sounds: Musical Constructions of German National Identity, 1848-1914 was published in 2012. More recently, she has contributed chapters on the critical reception of Wagner’s Ring to the Cambridge Companion to Wagner’s Ring and on “Wagner’s Medieval Visions” to the Oxford Handbook of Music and Medievalism. On the other hand, Barbara is currently investigating “Cloistered Voices: Music and Monasteries in Early-Modern Germany, 1555-1632”. A monograph is in preparation, which was supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship in 2018-2019. In 2020 she published “Musical diplomacy in a divided city: the Lassus-Mayrhofer manuscripts” in the journal Early Music.

About the series:

The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Marinu Leccia and Dylan Price organise the series. Presentations are followed by a discussion and virtual drinks reception. Free and open to all Music Faculty students and members. Most events are in hybrid in-person (Lecture Room B)/online format – please follow sign-up link for attendance in person and online. If you would like more information, please email marinu.leccia@linacre.ox.ac.uk or dylan.price@music.ox.ac.uk.


October 12
5:15 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category: