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date: 16 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter places French music criticism alongside parallel developments in intellectual thought, especially positivism, the belief in empirical observation as the basis for knowledge. Positivism raised many questions for music critics: Is music mere sensory stimulation? Is genius the result of specific historical circumstances rather than innate qualities? This chapter argues that French music criticism and positivism, whose births coincided exactly, were effectively part of the same cultural project. An examination of Edmond Hippeau in particular demonstrates the ways in which music criticism was an extension of broader intellectual debate in France.

Keywords: Hector Berlioz, criticism, Edmond Hippeau, empiricism, materialism, philosophy, positivism, intellectual culture

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