ENG 111

Fall 2002


READING GUIDE:  Extraordinary Minds, chapter 4—Master:  The Case of Mozart


Vocabulary . . .


Idiosyncratic (p. 53)

Wunderkind (p. 54)

Prolific (p. 55)

Reminiscent (p. 56)

Synergy/-gistic (p. 56)

Disparate (p. 56)

Efflorescence (p. 57)

Iconoclastic (p. 59)

Precarious (p. 63)

Sardonic (p. 63)

Affable (p. 640

Dissolute (p. 64)


Apotheosis (p. 68)



Notes . . .


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is the example Gardner has chosen to illustrate his category of masters—those people “who gain complete mastery over one or more domains of accomplishment; [their] innovation occurs within established practice.”


In one respect, Mozart is an excellent, even an obvious, choice for the mastery category.  He was prolific, cranking out a large volume of superb music in his all-too-short lifetime.  And he was highly creative but not revolutionary.  Gardner represents this as a conscious choice that Mozart made, to continue to work within the tradition of the known and accepted musical forms of his day.


In another respect, though, Mozart is a complicated case to work with, because, in addition to being a master, he was also a prodigy.  Let me state the problem this way:  not all masters are prodigies as children, and not all prodigies grow up to be masters.  We’ll need to be on our toes as we read to determine what exactly is the relationship of prodigy and master in the young Mozart.  This, I think, is Gardner’s main focus in the first four sections.


The same kind of problem arises in the section entitled “The World of Others,” which begins on p. 64.  Gardner makes the case here that Mozart was not much inclined to introspection.  This may or may not be the case; I’m inclined to dispute this with Gardner based on the little I know of Mozart and his work.  But here’s the important thing:  we should not, on the basis of Mozart’s example, conflate a lack of introspection with mastery generally.  Some masters introspect; others (like Mozart?) do not.


Let me rephrase:  as you read this chapter, try to sort out the traits that make Mozart a stereotypical master from those traits that are unusual (or even unique) to him.