In Search of Hybridity: Grainger, MacDowell and their Cosmopolitan Imagination

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While their names are not frequently juxtaposed in existing scholarship, Percy Grainger and Edward MacDowell both maintained that cosmopolitanism was not merely a return to eighteenth-century idealism, but also a practical solution to mediating the anxieties of their epoch. I argue that, as members of a transatlantic network of artists, their overlapping system of referents and mutual fascination with Nordic cultures was integral to the development of mutable definitions of cosmopolitanism. At the same time, the deliberate consciousness of difference that permitted for the simultaneous expansion and contraction of identities also contributed to the rise of conflicting imperatives. In the case of Grainger, certain tensions remain unresolved, including the propensity to circulate racial hierarchies under the moniker of ‘cosmopolitanism’. Therefore, in this article, I offer a methodology for appraising the common foundations of their affiliations, advance new analytical tools for evaluating the practice of ‘cosmopolitanizing’ local sources, and problematize the purported universality of their resultant discourse. By focusing upon the particular aspect of harmonic contextuality, I find that a distinct mode of hybridity emerged as they sought to distance themselves from European artistic models while in living America – one that ironically brought properties of time and space into closer proximity. This study thereby illustrates that the consequences of their cultural dialogue led to the end of anachronisms in the service of a ‘continual and restless spirit of change’.




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