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Musical Affective Economies and the Wars of Religion in Lyon


This dissertation examines musical affective economies surrounding the Wars of Religion in Lyon. Expanding on affect theory that considers how emotions stick to and slide from subjects and objects, this research asks how musical affect also sank into bodies and ontologies, serving to both bond and break the community of Lyon. I consider how the boundaries of community were delimited through musical theatre in the early sixteenth century, demonstrating how techniques of communitas were essential to performing this community. I explore how the principal of Lyon’s Collège de la Trinité made use of these techniques, both in his pedagogical theatre, and in an elite musical print aimed at religious reconciliation.

From here, I examine how these techniques began to be used towards divisive ends, as Protestants confronted Catholics with psalms and “spiritual songs.” A group of martyr songs, disseminated amongst both elite and more popular audiences, activated the Protestant habitus through such genres, putting the visceral experiences of five young martyrs of Lyon into oral circulation. The subversiveness of such “spiritual songs” within orthodox martyrological practices underscores the musicality of how the theatre of martyrdom was memorialized. Polemic was especially propagated through the inflamed populace in the guise of “chansons nouvelles,” contrafacta songs that were “sung to the tune of” extant popular tunes. Exploring how this genre engaged with contemporary notions and concerns about anger, I demonstrate how the timbres (song bases) of these “chansons nouvelles” accumulated affect across the Wars of Religion as they were adhered to violent Catholic invective.

Finally, I turn to Lyon’s proto-social welfare project, permanently established in 1534, the Aumône Générale. Interrogating how the institution subjected the city’s impoverished residents to a Catholic economy of faith, I focus on how the hyper-marking of the forced musical processions of the poor would serve to facilitate their eventual confinement in the seventeenth century. Positioned within the emergent subfield of music and conflict studies, this dissertation argues that, because of its very ephemeral and emotional qualities, music was a vital force in cultivating both solidarity and animosity during the tumult of the Wars of Religion.

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