Beethoven as Sentimentalist: The Glory of War in the Finale of the "Eroica"

Michael Spitzer, University of Liverpool

The finale of Beethoven's Eroica has attracted far less analytical or critical attention than its first movement. In some ways, this sui generis blend of variation, rondo, and fugato defies analysis. In other ways, however, its affective meaning is all too clear: the emotion of glory, in particular, the glory of war. This talk does two jobs. It seeks to explain how the movement works, focusing on its two fugato episodes. More broadly, it contextualizes Beethoven in general within the nascent discipline of history of emotions, in the vanguard of seminal texts such as William Reddy's The Navigation of Feeling (2001), a book which charts the social and political impact of sentimentalism within eighteenth and early nineteenth-century French culture. Glory is a distinctive historical emotion, and the glory of war in the Eroica finale, whilst tinged with Napoleonism, has a rich genealogy.