Stephen Sondheim: identity construction in the context of postmodernism

Fernandez, Julian (2022). Stephen Sondheim: identity construction in the context of postmodernism. University of Birmingham. M.A.

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Musical theatre lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim pioneered the sophisticated characterisation of emotional complexity in the second half of the 20th Century. His work embodies the postmodern perspective, which views identity as a fluid, multi-faceted construct, disconnected from totalising homogenous structures. It is against this background that my thesis aims to investigate Sondheim’s methods of identity construction. In my analysis I will discuss key songs and self-revelatory moments in the musicals Company, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd- the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Into the Woods, focusing on lyrical and musical characterisation, while considering the performative and constructive layers of identity. My results show that Sondheim sets himself musical, structural and stylistic limitations with the sole purpose of breaking them. Thus, he allows his characters to develop beyond their pre-determined narratives and constructing their identities in the process.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.A.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.A.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of Drama and Theatre Arts
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music


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