Vanwege de coronamaatregelen kan de onderwijsvorm of tentaminering afwijken. Zie voor actuele informatie de betreffende cursuspagina’s op Brightspace.


nl en

Music - Philosophy - Politics


Admission requirements

There are no admission requirements for this elective course.


“Art is moral in so far as it wakes us. But what if it does the opposite? If it anesthetises, sends us to sleep and opposes activity and progress? This too music can do, it understands the effects of opiates most essentially…. I do not exaggerate if I declare it to be politically suspect.” (Settembrini in ‘The Magic Mountain’. Thomas Mann)

What is the link between music, philosophy and politics? What are the effects of musical-romantic dreams and of ghosts of the past on our contemporary society? Is there an aesthetics laying beneath the surface when a political system turns into spectacle and exaggerated media-exposure? What is the source of theatrical rhetoric of populistic ideologies, the rise of emotional identity-policies, the longing forabsolute leadership and mythologization of the nation? These and other questions will be discussed in this class.

With this course we will trace this contemporary landscape back to its roots in romanticism. The Romantic era was a revolutionary era with intensified interactions between performing arts, music-aesthetics and national politics. In this context art and music acquired its modern meaning: anticipating and reflecting social instability, economic expansion, technological inventions, and the political turmoil that turned Europe into a circus of chaos and eventuallyin the ‘great war’.

How do we proceed in this cultural philosophy course? First by understanding these specific connections between music, literature, theatre, opera and later even film. We look at their role in culturally and politically defining a nation and at their rolein the usage of ‘folkloristic’ elements in narrations of history.We will also look at music’s ability to mobilize ‘spirit’ and its usage in war and for expressing protest. Here is the dubious nature of music, its vicious effects and even politically suspicious character….

We’ll focus on concepts such as nationalism, authenticity, popular art and aesthetic criticism, identity, culture of power and the ‘mimetic’ power of culture, ideology, propaganda and autonomy. Special emphasis is put on the double role of aesthetics: on works and events as perceptive medium for supporting ideological and political ideas ― and as an artistic force of social-cultural liberation and political criticism.

Course objectives

At the end of the course the student:

  • will have learned to think about the interactions between ‘politicizing aesthetics and aestheticized politics’ and on their effects in contemporary political ideas, discourses and performances;

  • is able reflect with some historical background and to situate his/her activities as a teacher and professional musician/pedagogue within a diversity of sectors of contemporary culture;

  • is able to comprehend some crucial texts of philosophers, writers, composers filmmakers and performers;

  • has a developed a historical sensibility for interdisciplinary and intermediary in contemporary art.


Academic year 2019-2020, first semester

Dates and times

Thursdays from 19.00 to 21.00 hrs.

Lecture dates:
12 September 2019
19 September 2019
26 September 2019
10 October 2019
17 October 2019
31 October 2019
7 November 2019
14 November 2019
21 November 2019
28 November 2019
12 December 2019
19 December 2019


16 January 2020, 19.00-21.00 hrs, Lipsius 002


The lectures/workgroups take place at Lipsius building, Cleveringaplaats 1, 2311 BD Leiden, room 002.

The exam on 19 December 2019 takes place in room 227 of the Lipsius building.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

Course Load

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours. Course Level is 300.

  • Seminar: 12 seminars of 2,5 hours = 30 hours

  • Literature reading & practical work: 55 hours

  • Self study – MOOC: 5 hours

  • Assignments & final essay: 50 hours

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

  • 40% weekly seminar assignments

  • 50% final essay

  • 10% active participation in class


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Announcements

  • Assignments

  • Reading materials

Reading list

Here is a small list of (non-compulsory) literature, as reading suggestions for those students who want to prepare themselves on the main topics of the course.

  • Blanning, Tim: The Romantic Revolution. London, Oprion Books, 2011

  • Berlin, Isaiah. Roots of Romanticism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998

  • Bohlman, Philip V. The Music of European Nationalism: Cultural Identity and Modern History. New York: Routledge, 2004.

  • Bowie, Andrew. Music, Philosophy and Modernity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Chapter 5,6,7)

  • Dahlhaus, Carl. “Nationalism in Music.” In Between Romanticism and Modernism: Four Studies in the Music of the Later Nineteenth Century. By Carl Dahlhaus, 79–102. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.

  • Aesthetics and Politics Debates between Theodor Adorno, Ernst Bloch, Bertolt Brecht, Walter Benjamin, Gyorgy Lukacs. London: NLB, 1977

Some additional articles will be distributed during the course: they will include works and theories on genre’s, artistic techniques and cultural perspectives of composers (from Chopin and Liszt to Wagner, Verdi, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Richard Strauss, Bartok, Schönberg and Stravinsky….); excerpts from novels of writers (Baudelaire, Thomas Mann, Proust, Eliot), by filmmakers (Eisenstein, Riefensthal) and from a selection of text-fragments by philosophers (Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard on Mozart; Nietzsche on Wagner; Gramsci on Verdi) and modern thinkers as Adorno, Benjamin, Bloch, Lacoue-Labarthe, Badiou, Zizek, Scruton


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Drs. T. Dommisse Dhr. ir. R.T.W.L. Schneemann


For other courses in the domains of music and fine arts, please visit: