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Late Style and its DiscontentsEssays in art, literature, and music$
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Gordon McMullan and Sam Smiles

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198704621

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704621.001.0001

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Historicizing Late Style as a Discourse of Reception

Historicizing Late Style as a Discourse of Reception

(p.51) 3 Historicizing Late Style as a Discourse of Reception
Late Style and its Discontents

Linda Hutcheon

Michael Hutcheon

Oxford University Press

This chapter defines late style as an attribute assigned to last works by inference from the works themselves and from the biography of the artist facing old age. It historicizes late style as a matter of critical reception: it is the aesthetic values of the critic that determine what is deemed positive or negative in the last works of any artist. While late style is a descriptive discourse, it is evaluative too, and what is at stake is an artist’s posthumous reputation. From this perspective, the late lives of a series of canonical composers expose the contradictions inherent in the history of generalizations about late style. We argue that a universalizing concept of late style has led not only to elisions of distinctions and differences but also to denigrations of later-life creativity that are, in fact, ageist. There are as many late styles as there are late artists.

Keywords:   musicology, late style, reception, composers, ageism

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