Date of Degree
Joseph N. Straus
disability studies, mad studies, history of psychiatry
This dissertation interrogates and develops the multiple connections between music history, theory, composition, and reception and the sociopolitical structures of madness in the twentieth century. My work first uncovers the various definitions of psychological abnormality as they have taken shape through discourses of Western medicine, psychology, and history/criticism of the arts. As I argue, madness is not purely a somatic, transhistorical illness, but an elusively constructed term with tentative relations to shifting concepts of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral non-normativity. Following an outline of this methodological premise, rooted in the fields of disability studies and mad studies, I contextualize the life and work of three composers—Ivor Gurney, Ruth Crawford, and Elliott Smith—whose experiences with trauma, anxiety, and depression defined crucial elements of their artistic careers and musical output. These case studies aim to reinterpret the reception and analysis of “mad” musicians and their works in a way that rejects anachronistic evaluations and deconstructs the stigmas surrounding historically marginalized bodies.
Cooper, Beth A., "Music and Madness: Three Critical Case Studies" (2022). CUNY Academic Works.