Throughout this course, we have looked at numerous topics, some of them more concretely about music, others less so. It would be easy to try and pull these subjects together through common themes – most notably nationalism, sexuality, gender, and race, the four themes we explicitly studied. I think there’s a deeper connection to be made, however. Bear with me as I say this (I know it sounds a little silly), but I think one of the strongest connections that can be drawn straight through our study of music in 1920’s Paris is connections.
The way I see it, everything we’ve talked about is intricately linked to the fiber of 1920’s Paris, whether we see it or not. Sometimes we spent a little more time digging into these topics through reading or research, and we found – at least I found – far more connections than might have been expected. These link to other topics we’ve discussed, my own personal background knowledge, or things I’ve found out in my research. In some cases, they even link back to music I hear and perform today. I suppose what I anticipated was that the material in this class would be all neatly packaged up, free of anything tying it to other courses, other topics. That is what we like in courses, right? That their material be clearly defined and easily digestible without interacting with any other content, much as how we don’t want our peas touching our mashed potatoes. But I think this class has been neither peas nor mashed potatoes – I do not know what to call it, but I do know that it constantly runs into other things on my plate and usually both items become more interesting and appealing because of it.
To give an example, take Louis Aragon. He was a French journalist and poet active starting in the 20’s, but most well-known for his work in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s – and he just so happens to be the subject of my French distinction research. Well, one particular anthology is, anyway: “La Diane Française,” written during the Nazi occupation of France. As one might expect, it references the occupation and the resistance frequently, as well as French nationalism. Ordinarily, I would have dismissed this as one part of Aragon’s writing style. After discussing nationalism in this course though, I can shed new light on how and why Aragon included the nationalistic language he does. I can discuss the Franco-Germanic dichotomy present in the collective cultural consciousness in France beginning in the late 19th century and continuing – as I may well argue – at least through the 1940’s. In addition, much of Aragon’s poetry talks of love. Again, I could easily dismiss this, or maybe talk about it in the context of poems of unrequited love in medieval France and the parallels there; or, as I have learned in this class, I can dive into Aragon’s exploration and presentation of sexuality and gender.
So, I would ultimately say that the “common theme” of this course is the constant search for connections between seemingly disparate topics – how are nationalism, gender, sexuality, and race presented in music? Why are they presented? And, in turn, this search has expanded for me beyond just this course, but into many others as well.