Hearts for sale: The French Romance and the Sexual Traffic of Musical Mimicry
19th-Century Music 35:1 (2011), 34–71
This article argues that veiled practices of gender mimicry facilitated the meteoric commercial success of the French romance in Paris during the July Monarchy. The romance was commonly characterized as a feminine genre particularly suited to women’s amateur proclivities. Many critics were quick to emphasize women’s putative obsession with romances while downplaying (or altogether neglecting to comment on) the extensive participation of men in the same musical venture. Men composers and poets who sought to pen marketable romances capitalized on aesthetic idioms and values that contemporary writers explicitly appraised as feminine. This article sets out to examine the following: first, critical dialogues surrounding the proliferation of romances during this period of social upheaval; second, the Parisian bourgeoisie’s valorization and fetishization of female amateurism; third, the poetics, politics, and economics of gender mimicry in the romance industry; and lastly, the challenges of music criticism and analysis with regard to the ambivalent significations of so-called easy music. Underlying each of these investigations is an attempt to understand the ways in which romanciers and romancières learned to perform femininity in their quests to become professionals in the lucrative business of musical amateurism.