During the American Civil War, women in the parlor imagined life at the front through music, playing pieces and singing songs on topics related to the conflict. Among the genres that they performed were battle pieces for the piano, episodic works that depict incidents of battle and their outcome in victory. These pieces constituted a genre that had long been a favorite of female amateur performers, their lineage beginning with Frantisek Kotzwara's 1788 Battle of Prague , which remained steadily popular throughout the nineteenth century. This article examines Civil War battle pieces by tracing their roots to Kotzwara's famous piece. By constructing a reception history of that work as it appears in nineteenth-century literary sources, the article retrieves some alternatives to the abundant satirical readings of the Battle of Prague in period fiction. It suggests that Civil War battle music played several important roles in the lives of its players. The music invited women to imagine and embody the conflicts on the battlefield, to challenge society's expectations of women as both pianists and as contributors to the war effort in public capacities, and to reflect on the costs of the war. The article goes on to examine a battle piece by a female composer and to consider amateur women's performances of battle repertoire during the war years. Finally, drawing inspiration from the accounts in fiction of Kotzwara's Battle of Prague , it concludes by imagining a woman's performance of a battle piece on the heels of the Battle of Gettysburg.
In their recent research, literary historians have discovered new information about the popular success of British women novelists at the turn of the nineteenth century. Contrary to a canonical rendition of history, which argues that, Jane Austen aside, male writers dominated this period in British history, this new scholarship reveals that there were several women novelists of the late-Georgian era who were among the most widely read authors of their time. Many of these novelists chose the domestic realm as the setting for their stories. In particular, numerous female writers authored novels about courtship. Their works posed a new feminine archetype, which Anne Mellor has called the “new woman,” who valued intellect, self-confidence, and reason, bringing those qualities into marriage. This article locates the “new woman” in music making of the early nineteenth century. Using recent work in the field of English literary history as a paradigm through which to approach music, it notes how accompanied sonatas of the late Georgian era, like novels, posed an alternative to the patriarchal norms of British culture. This study focuses on the work of two British women, the author Maria Edgeworth and the composer Maria Hester Park, juxtaposing two of their works that are stylistically representative of their respective genres: Edgeworth's Belinda , a novel of courtship, and Park's op. 13, no. 2, an accompanied sonata, both of which were published in 1801. These two works—and their genres—articulated a new feminine ideal for a new century; the widespread popularity of the genres helped to integrate this ideal into the very fabric of British society.