Fall 2023

Music and Totalitarianism

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-127


Klara Moricz (Section 01)


In 1936 the official Soviet newspaper Pravda denounced Dmitri Shostakovich’s latest opera as “muddle instead of music.” In 1942 the Party used his “Leningrad” Symphony as propaganda in the Soviet Union’s war against Nazi Germany. Shostakovich’s career demonstrates both the unlimited government support and the unlimited control totalitarian states exercise over their artists. This course explores musical life under totalitarian regimes: the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, the GDR, Socialist Hungary, China at the time of the Cultural Revolution, and North Korea. Classes will center on musical works affected by such control, including Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth and his Symphony No. 5, and the Chinese ballet The Red Detachment of Women. We will watch propaganda films such as Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky and Leni Riefenstahl's The Triumph of the Will as well as films about the perils of totalitarianism such as István Szabó’s Mephisto, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Life of Others, and the documentary From Mao to Mozart. Readings will include Hannah Arendt’s analysis of totalitarianism and historical documents pertinent to interpreting musical works in their political context. No previous knowledge of music is required.

Fall semester. Professor Moricz.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: n/a

FYSE 127 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM ARMU 212
Th 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM ARMU 212


Other years: Offered in Fall 2023, Fall 2024