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date: 15 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter proposes that in the grand opera of the nineteenth century, sexuality and dis/ability combine with opera’s musical, literary, and dramatic elements, enabling experiences of the sublime within the context of human embodiment. Operatic representation of disability, including madness and lovesickness, enables audiences to both experience and contemplate uncontrollable and overwhelming forces, the essence of Arthur Schopenhauer’s conception of sublimity. The rise of these representations in nineteenth-century opera coincides with increasingly influential concepts of normative bodies, bodily controllability, and marginalization of bodily excess and disability. Opera’s textual, musical, sung, and acted representations of embodied excess, disability, and physical extremity enhance audiences’ immersive witnessing of and physical empathy with those representations.

Keywords: disability, embodiment, lovesickness, madness, normativity, opera, Schopenhauer, sexuality, sublimity

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