Dan Wang

  • Assistant Professor

Broadly speaking, my work focuses on aesthetic components of personhood in the modern West. I am interested in the history of forms, genres, affects, and rhythms that have constituted what a self feels like in (centrally) Europe and the United States. “Aesthetic” refers to cultural products like operas and movies, but it also refers to the genres and forms that organize and make sense of ordinary life. A lot of my method involves looking at narrative musical works (i.e. opera, film) as imprints or codifications of shapes and gestures that try to get at what something might have felt like in a certain historical moment.

As a result, I have focused on the "scene" as an aesthetic container in which abstract humanist concepts (for example, self-determination, empathy, love) can be represented in a fantasized zone of contact whose scale is visceral, bodily and intimate. But the scene can work in a variety of genres: different aspects of my work explore scenic thinking in relation to romantic love, political transformation, or the aspiration to the presence of “living in the moment.” These constitute an archive of normative sensations that promise to deliver the saturated experience of being alive. As a musicologist and cultural theorist, I’m interested in how popular culture renders these experiences as aesthetic rhythm in genres like the romantic comedy and the political melodrama, and their predecessors (such as Italian comic opera). The aim is to show how the poetics of film image and form, and the aesthetic structure of operatic and film music, can tell us what it has taken to feel like a person in the cultures of the West.

I've written about 19th-century stage melodrama, speeches in Hollywood film, Wagner and addiction, sentimentality and politics, Asian American aesthetics in the public sphere, and Colin Firth movies, among other things. Teaching at Pitt since 2018.

Education & Training

  • PhD in Music History and Theory, University of Chicago, 2017
  • MA in Musicology, University go Western Ontario, 2010
  • BMus in Piano Performance, University of Western Ontario, 2008

Representative Publications

“The Voice of Feeling: Liberal Subjects, Music, and the Cinematic Speech.” Oxford Handbook of Voice Studies, ed. Nina Sun Eidsheim and Katherine L. Meizel (in preparation).

“Melodrama, Two Ways.” 19th-Century Music, Vol 36 No. 2 (Fall 2012), pp. 122-35.

Research Interests

European opera since 1750; film and film music; Asian American poetics and theory; melodrama; genre studies; popular culture; affect theory; political theory.