Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Janette Tilley

Committee Members

Emily Wilbourne

Scott Burnham

Michael Marissen

Subject Categories



German Baroque Music, History of Emotions, Seufftzer, Lutheranism


This dissertation is the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive account of a genre of German Lutheran sacred works titled Seufftzer or suspiria (sighs) that were published with increasing frequency during the Thirty Years War (1618–1648). Drawing from recent work in the history of emotion, I approach emotion-terms from the mentalities of those who deployed them. In chapter two, I offer a historically nuanced definition of the word Seufftzer, which takes into account the emotional gesture’s largely sacred meanings. For German Lutherans in the early modern era, the sigh was not just an expression of some internal feeling state, but was rather a form of prayer that emerged especially during moments of hardship. Subsequent chapters of this dissertation illustrate how Seufftzer informed the creation of an entire musical genre with distinctly emotional implications. In chapter three, I examine the ways in which musical sigh-compositions drew from and contributed to a rich corpus of devotional sigh-prayer literature that conventionalized responses to certain taxing emotional situations such as the suffering experienced at the moment of death or the hardship of the Thirty Years War. Chapter four continues to scrutinize on the war’s effect on the creation of these sigh-compositions by focusing specifically on the relationship between music and the emotionality of true repentance. In this chapter, I develop the concept of “feeling agency” to describe the ways in which certain emotional states were believed to effectuate change in the world. By singing musical sighs and feeling true repentance from their performance, early modern Germans believed that the harsh realities of the Thirty Years War could be curbed by means of God’s direct intervention in the world. The dissertation concludes with a study of a number of contemporary songs that describe the sigh of the dove and turtledove—a topos that was imbued with novel political connotations during the war. Since the time of St. Augustine, the sigh of the dove had been interpreted as a sonic indicator of the bird’s inherent spiritual sadness. During the Thirty Years War, Protestant Lutherans—especially religious exiles forced to leave their homelands because of the pressures of re-Catholicization—reinscribed the birds’ symbolic voices with confessional-political connotations that referenced the suffering of the Protestant church and all its persecuted members.

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