"Why Beethoven?" was a question the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein asked himself in an imaginary conversation published in his book, The Joy of Music. More than half a century later we are still asking the same question. Why has Beethoven played such a pivotal role in the history of classical music, the world of ideas a a whole, and in popular culture? Why is he "a ubiquitous icon in all corners of American society," as described by the scholar Michael Broyles? This seminar attempts to offer some answers about this towering figure in Western culture. Through critical examination of representative works and through important biographical studies, film, and a Broadway play, this course will explore issues that include the nature of genius, the compositional process of Beethoven's music, the connections between creativity and suffering, and the presence of Beethoven in American culture. Affiliate school: School of Music.