Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Joe Perry

Second Advisor

Jared Poley

Third Advisor

Nick Wilding


This dissertation is a study of choral societies, emotions, and German national identity during the German Empire (1871-1918). Using journals, memoirs, letters, lyrics, banners, postcards, and festival programs, I argue that singing creating overlapping emotional communities in spite of palpable social, economic, and political tensions that intensified in the late nineteenth century. The choral movement that originated in the early nineteenth century was heavily influenced by the early Romantics. Theories of the nation that were wrapped up in the ancient poetry and songs of the Germanic people led to the development of the Lied—an art form that was believed to represent the nation itself. The Romantics also prescribed an aesthetics of music that elevated it to the highest art form. An embrace of the Lied and absolute music fostered the notion that Germans were “the people of music.” Themes of myth, history, nature, and a synthesis of all these with science and politics permeated the choral movement. Choral performances created unique bonds among singers but also drew in instrumentalists, conductors, audiences, and stage hands. Each performance created new emotional connections, and a movement that began in a narrow bourgeois realm gradually filtered into all layers of German society creating complex webs of connection. Over the course of a century, war and music created a German nation and a nation of Germans.

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