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McBrayer, Benjamin (2017) MAPPING MYSTERY: BRELET, JANKÉLÉVITCH, AND PHENOMENOLOGIES OF MUSIC IN POST-WORLD WAR II FRANCE. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines the revival of interest in interplay of music and mystery in post-1945 France, revisiting but also reconfiguring recent debates on the merits of the ineffable in music. The framework of my project brings into focus, amidst post-WWII French philosophies of music, what can be seen as two polar regions of mysteriology. At one end, there is the musicologist Gisèle Brelet, who employs the conventional terms of epistemology constructing what amounts to a metaphysics of music. At the other, there is the philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitch, who seeks to expose at every turn the ultimate metaphoricity of any such metaphysics, advocating a radical re-creation of his subject matter in the process of reflecting on it.

As I show, however dissimilar, these approaches subsisted on, as well as marked the limits of, a broader intellectual milieu—that of an existential phenomenology committed to studying the intentionality of conscious experience. The Introduction discusses contemporaneous philosophical, and Chapter 1 traces historical, underpinnings of the new urge to register the aesthetic experience of music as “ontological mystery,” an experience hinging on a variety of modes of awareness of an Other. When approached via musical sound, the question of the Other becomes a problem of time—the medium through which the experience of the Other happens.

Both Brelet and Jankélévitch posited, albeit in differing ways, that through music we become conscious of a time that is other than the way in which we experience time in our ordinary lives. In phenomenology, the Other can take various, but related forms—most commonly, it is the alterity of another consciousness, of the world in-itself, or of history. Chapters 2–4 explore in turn each of these forms and their corresponding temporalities as they appear in the work of Jankélévitch and Brelet. Chapter 2 centers on the mystery of intra-human and inter-human time, of time within and between subjects. Chapter 3 addresses the mystery of ecological time, or the temporal relationship between human beings and the natural world. Chapter 4 investigates the mystery of historical time and its manifestations in the dialectics of music.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
McBrayer, BenjaminMbmm71
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairNisnevich, Anna
Committee CoChairRoot, Deane
Committee MemberMecchia, Giuseppina
Committee MemberMoe, Eric
Committee MemberFallon, Robert
Date: 28 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 20 March 2017
Approval Date: 28 September 2017
Submission Date: 14 April 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 256
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: philosophy of music, existential phenomenology, aesthetic experience, postwar France, mystery, intellectual history
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2017 21:36
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2017 21:36


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