Healing music and its literary representation in the early modern period

Kennedy, Barbara Cecily (2012) Healing music and its literary representation in the early modern period. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This interdisciplinary thesis explores how music is used in the art of healing in two distinct
ways in the early modern period: namely, through the use of performed music
accompanying the healing process itself, and as ‘speculative music’, the latter providing a
philosophical model for understanding the interplay of music with body, mind and soul.
Redefining an existing enquiry in a specific way, my research seeks to enhance an
understanding of the construction of a therapeutic modality that revitalizes the ancient
belief in the healing powers of music, manifest since antiquity through the classical legends
of Orpheus and Pythagoras. The Pythagorean hypothesis – that earthly music reflected the
celestial harmony of the spheres – was believed to govern the internal music of the human
body, giving credence to the notion of the harmonious balancing of the four bodily
Tracing the tradition of healing music from antiquity, I argue that Marsilio Ficino’s
paradigmatic magico-musical philosophy refashions the Pythagorean and Neoplatonic
explanations of music’s curative potentiality, offering a new interpretat ion of music’s
effective power to heal the rift between body and soul. I examine how this Ficinian
interpretation is discernible in the work of Robert Fludd, Michael Maier, William
Shakespeare, Robert Burton and Thomas Campion. I analyse their observations of the
body’s physical and emotional response to music’s healing power. Drawing on early
modern models that appropriate the rhetoric of the music of the spheres, I argue that a
cultural moment is established in which the motifs and tropes of Neoplatonic love and the
healing power of music culminate in allegories of philosophical contemplation and
spiritual fulfilment in the Jacobean court masques.
In conclusion, my thesis’s examination of music as a healing modality provides a
historical framework to support the contemporary use of music as a recognized therapeutic

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: M Music. Literature on music. Musical instruction and study > ML Literature on music > ML3800 Philosophical and societal aspects of music. Physics and acoustics of music. Physiological aspects of music > ML3919 Moral influence of music. Therapeutic use of music
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0421 Elizabethan era (1550-1640)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2013 13:16
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/46975

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