Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Matthew Brown

Second Advisor

Jan Herlinger


The dissertation identifies and studies fragmentary structures---structures that give the impression of incompletion or interruption---in the music of Claude Debussy. Although fragments---which play a decisive role in nineteenth- and twentieth-century aethetics---have been discussed extensively in literature and the visual arts, relatively little critical attention was paid to them by musicologists until Daverio and Rosen, in the 1990s, investigated the romantic musical fragment. The dissertation traces the history of the literary fragment from the late middle ages through the nineteenth century. With this history as background, it places Debussy's fragmentary musical structures in relation to those of composers like Schumann and Chopin. Debussy's fragmentary structures are shown to be of four types: some are incomplete in their beginnings (e.g., the songs "Green" and "Spleen"), some in their endings (the prelude "Canope"); some mirror the fragmentary structure of literary works on which they are modeled (Prelude a "L'Apres-midi d'un faune" and the Chansons de Bilitis); some reflect the nineteenth-century fascination with the sketch (D'un cahier d'esquisses ); some interrupt their progress with quotation or autoquotation ("La serenade interrompue"). On the basis of these investigations, Debussy is shown to be the heir of the nineteenth-century fragment tradition; in this respect he shared the interests of his many acquaintances among the French Symbolist poets.