June 10, 2020

Ep.27 - James Kennaway - The Piano Plague: The Medical Campaign Against Female Musical Education

For much of the 19th-C there was serious medical discussion about the dangers of excessive music in girls’ education. This examines theories relating to this medical panic and consider motivations behind it.


Although playing the piano was often seen as a thoroughly respectable pastime for young ladies, for much of the nineteenth century there was serious medical discussion about the dangers of excessive music in girls’ education. Many of the period’s leading psychiatrists and gynaecologists argued that music could over-stimulate the female nervous system, playing havoc with vulnerable nerves and reproductive organs, and warned of the consequences of music lessons on the developing bodies of teenage girls. This talk examines some of the theories relating to this medical panic and consider the motivations behind it.

Speaker: Dr James Kennaway (Durham University)


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