Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)


Interdisciplinary Studies


Robert St. Clair

Committee Members

Charles Palermo

Brian Hulse


This thesis examines the expression of subjectivity in poetry and music, through a comparison of nineteenth century French poet Paul Verlaine's poems in his collection Romances sans paroles with the musical settings of these poems by the composer, Claude Debussy. Using artistic subjectivity as the point of departure, I attempt to account for the ways in which these art forms may approximate or suggest similar ideas, despite their materially-different modes of expression. Each of the four chapters in this analysis focus on a comparison between one of Verlaine's and its accompanying musical transcription by Debussy. I engage in a close reading of the poem initially, with attention paid to linguistic communication of meaning and then turn to the musical score, and through an analysis of musical theory practices in Debussy's pieces, attempt to show potential sites of expressive correspondence between music and poetry. I use a discursive model of relationship, rather than equivalency. Such an approach places poem and composition in a sort of dialog that is itself productive of meaning that is emergent from their association. The discursive method of analysis acknowledges and respects formal differences between language and music in a way that allows for an informed yet fruitful comparison.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

On-Campus Access Only