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Chopin and His World$
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Jonathan D. Bellman and Halina Goldberg

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691177755

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691177755.001.0001

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Revisiting Chopin’s Tubercular Song, or, An Opera in the Making

Revisiting Chopin’s Tubercular Song, or, An Opera in the Making

(p.103) Revisiting Chopin’s Tubercular Song, or, An Opera in the Making
Chopin and His World

David Kasunic

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines a crucially important but overlooked aspect of Chopin's biography—the link between his illness and his perceived singing, and that what seems to occasion this singing is a disease that progressively hollows out one's lungs. As such, Chopin as singer becomes a metaphor for the lyric creativity of the tubercular Romantic artist, which, as Susan Sontag observes, became such a cliché in the nineteenth century that at the end of the century one critic suggested that it was the progressive disappearance of tuberculosis which accounted for the current decline of literature and the arts. The chapter shows how the pathbreaking work of the French diagnostic pathologist René Laënnec (1781–1826) challenges this generalized metaphoric reading of the reception of Chopin.

Keywords:   Fryderyk Chopin, Romantic artist, Susan Sontag, tuberculosis, literature, arts, René Laënnec

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