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Unit of study_

MCGY3629: Romanticism and the Fantastic

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Sydney

This unit will explore the fantastic as a central aspect of romanticism in its various manifestations, including the uncanny, the daemonic and the alienated. In music, this meshes fruitfully with the fantasy as a genre, which is similarly dependent on the imagination and the evasion of clear boundaries. A range of Lieder, operas, symphonic and solo works by composers such as Schumann, Berlioz, Liszt, Mendelssohn and Schubert will be studied against the backdrop of literary and artistic innovations by Goethe, Hoffmann, Byron, and Friedrich. Theories of the fantastic by Todorov, Freud and others will also be examined.

Unit details and rules

Unit code MCGY3629
Academic unit Musicology
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

It is expected that students will have some knowledge of harmonic and formal practices up to 1850.

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator David Larkin,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Small test In-class tests
In-class tests
20% Multiple weeks 25 minutes each
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
Online task Presentation
20% Multiple weeks 15 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Research essay
Written assessment
40% Multiple weeks 2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Reflective journal
Written assessment
10% Multiple weeks 600 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO6
Participation Seminar participation
10% Weekly n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO4 LO3 LO2

Assessment summary

  • Research essay: Students will write an essay which should relate in some fashion to the theme of the unit, but the choice of topic and approach is left up to the student. It should show evidence of broader reading than that required for the weekly seminars, and the ability to pursue an independent line of enquiry. Consultation with the coordinator from the beginning is strongly advised.
  • Presentation: Students will give an individual presentation on a topic assigned in week 1. Musical excerpts are strongly encouraged, but these should amount to no more than 3 minutes in total. A bibliography of sources consulted should be provided.
  • In-class texts: There will be two short in-class tests. Each is worth 10% of the total mark allocation. These will be based on the focus works, though not necessarily limited to the excerpts studied in class. Students will be required to identify excerpts and to answer a number of focussed questions on issues such as harmony, texture and orchestration, representational purpose, form, etc. Scores may be provided for some excerpts.
  • Seminar participation: It is expected that students will have listened to the focus works each week (in the case of longer works, specific sections may be assigned for more careful study) and to have engaged with the assigned reading so as to be able to contribute to the seminar discussions. The emphasis will be on the quality rather than necessarily the quantity of comments.
  • Reflective journal: In week 2, students will create a 300-word blog-post in which they reflect on the following issues: (i) some of the different meanings which the term ‘fantasy/fantastic’ has acquired in regard to early 19C musical practices; (ii) which of the topics you are looking forward to most, and why. In week 12, students will revisit this post and add a 300-word response, outlining how the unit has fulfilled (or not) your expectations, and how the knowledge and skills you have gained might be usefully employed or adapted in your future musical endeavours.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The questions on the in-class tests are mostly factual rather than evaluative in nature.

The seminar participation mark will be based on a student’s involvement in class discussion over the course of the semester. The emphasis will be on the quality rather than necessarily the quantity of comments.

The essay and reflective journal will be marked according to the following assessment criteria:

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Demonstrates high level of initiative in research and reading; sophisticated critical analysis of evidence; high level engagement with theoretical issues, innovative use of reading/research material and impressive command of underlying debates and assumptions; properly documented and written with style, originality and precision.


75 - 84

Demonstrates initiative in research and wide, appropriate reading; complex understanding of question and ability to critically review material in relation to underlying assumptions and values; analyses material in relation to empirical and theoretical contexts; properly documented; clear, well-developed structure and argument with some signs of literary style.


65 - 74

Evidence of broader understanding than pass level; offers synthesis with some critical evaluation of material; coherent argument using a range of relevant evidence; some evidence of independent thought, good referencing. A high credit (70-74) shows some evidence of ability to problematise and think conceptually.


50 - 64

Written work meets basic requirements in terms of reading/research; relevant material; tendency to descriptive summary rather than critical argument; makes a reasonable attempt to avoid paraphrasing; reasonably coherent structure; often has weaknesses in particular areas, especially in terms of narrow or underdeveloped treatment of question; acceptable documentation.


0 - 49

Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: Unacceptable paraphrasing; irrelevance of content; poor spelling; poor presentation; grammar or structure so sloppy it cannot be understood; failure to demonstrate understanding of content; insufficient or overlong word length.

For more information see


For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Fantastical romantics Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 02 Lonely wanderers Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 03 Fairy flights Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 04 Supernatural sites Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 05 Fantasy forms Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 06 Macabre dances Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 07 Faustian striving Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 08 Numinous strangers Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 09 Mad heroines Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 11 Carnival japes Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 12 Unstable artists Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 13 Daemonic virtuosos Seminar (2 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

Students are expected to attend a minimum of 90% of timetabled activities for a unit of study, unless granted exemption by the Dean, Head of School or Unit Coordinator. A student may fail a unit of study because of inadequate attendance. Alternatively, at the discretion of the relevant authority, additional assessment items may be set for a student whose attendance is lower than 90%.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Canvas site for this unit of study

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. discuss the nexus of aesthetic ideas associated with ‘the fantastic’, both as manifested in music and in other art forms
  • LO2. recognise and contextualise a number of significant musical works from the romantic era
  • LO3. analyse various types of formal and tonal structures used in the romantic period
  • LO4. evaluate critically both primary texts and secondary scholarship
  • LO5. conduct original research on topics of your own devising
  • LO6. engage respectfully but critically with the views of others

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

The last time this unit was offered (2019) the responses were mostly positive. Some felt the assessment items were too heavy, so I’ve slightly retooled these (the reflective journal is new, and will hopefully enable students to engage with the material and apply it to their own situations now and in the future)


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