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Wagner Studies and the ‘parallactic drift’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2011


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1 Franz Liszt to Eduard Liszt, 29 March 1854, Gotha, in Franz Liszt: Selected Letters, ed. and trans. Williams, Adrian (Oxford, 1998), 355Google Scholar . Helmut Kirchmeyer corroborated Liszt's statement by reprinting 3,257 periodical publications that appeared prior to 1855. See Situationsgeschichte der Musikkritik und des musikalischen Pressewesens in Deutschland; dargestellt vom Ausgabe des 18. Bis zum Beginn des 20. Jahnhunderts, vol. 4 ‘Das zeitgenössische Wagner-Bild’ (Regensburg, 1967).

2 Cosima Wagner: Die Tagebücher, 2 vols. (Munich and Zurich, 1976–77); cf. Cosima Wagner's Diaries, 2 vols., trans. Geoffrey Skelton, ed. Martin Gregor-Dellin and Dietrich Mack (New York and London, 1978), 11 July 1882.

3 Newman, Ernest, The Life of Richard Wagner, 4 vols. (New York, 1966), 1: viiGoogle Scholar .

4 ‘Views [on Wagner] were stated in one of two tones of voice: emphatic or outraged. And even today … people who write about Wagner veer to one pole or the other: to polemics or apologetics.’ Carl Dahlhaus, Richard Wagners Musikdramen (Velber, 1971), 1.

5 Deathridge, John, ‘Cataloguing Wagner’, The Musical Times, 124 (1983), 9296Google Scholar , here 92. In 1986, furthermore, Deathridge rued the fact that, despite containing ‘some of the most brilliant interpretive writing ever lavished on a major composer’, Wagner scholarship continues to be ‘clouded by hagiography, dilettantish scholarship (much of it influential), and intellectual pretentiousness’. Deathridge, , ‘A Brief History of Wagner Research’, in The Wagner Handbook, ed. Müller, Ulrich and Wapenwski, Peter; Eng. trans. ed. Deathridge, John (Cambridge, MA, 1992), 202Google Scholar .

6 Palmer, Tony, ‘Forward’, in Wagner & Cinema, ed. Joe, Jeongwon and Gilman, Sander L. (Bloomington, 2010), xiiiGoogle Scholar .

7 Joyce, James, Ulysses (Teddington, 2009), 464Google Scholar . Emphasis added.

8 Even during the early 1850s, Johann Christian Lobe wrote of Wagner's ‘unmistakable art and political savvy’, see ‘Letters to a Young Composer about Wagner’, trans. Trippett, David, in Richard Wagner and His World, ed. Grey, Thomas (Princeton, 2009), 276Google Scholar . More recently, John Deathridge credits Wagner as ‘the practical man of the theater’ in Wagner Beyond Good and Evil (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2008), 70. For a discussion of Wagner's commercial awareness, see Borchmeyer, Dieter, ‘The Work of Art and the Market Place’, in Richard Wagner: Theory and Theatre (Oxford, 1991), 313Google Scholar .

9 Jacobs, Robert and Skelton, Geoffrey (trans. and eds.), Wagner Writes from Paris (New York, 1973), 108Google Scholar .

10 ‘On one point, at least, [Wagner] remained consistent, and that was his repeated attempt to free art from the vicious circle of a market mentality, and hence to destroy its mercantile aspect … The sponsorship scheme devised to finance the Bayreuth Festival tried to retain certain features of the private character of patronage; as such, it was a conscious denial of the anonymity of the mercantile mentality and the audience associated with that mentality.’ Borchmeyer, Theory and Theatre, 5.

11 Habermas, Jürgen, Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit (Neuwied and Berlin, 1968), 181Google Scholar .

12 See, for instance, Bourdieu's view that: ‘It is enough to pose the forbidden question to perceive that the artist who makes the work is himself made, at the core of the field of production, by the whole ensemble of those who help to “discover” him and to consecrate him as an artist who is “known” and recognized – critics, writers of prefaces, dealers, etc. Thus, for example, the merchant in art … contributes to making the value of the author he supports by the sole fact of bringing him or her into a known and renowned existence.’ Bourdieu, Pierre, The Rules of Art, trans. Emanuel, Susan (Stanford, 1996), 167Google Scholar .

13 Woodmansee, Martha, ‘The Interests in Disinterestedness: Karl Philipp Moritz and the Emergence of the Theory of Aesthetic Autonomy in Eighteenth-Century Germany’, Modern Language Quarterly, 45 (1984), 2247Google Scholar ; Bourdieu, Pierre, Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action [1994], trans. Johnson, Randall (Stanford, 1998), 75ffGoogle Scholar .

14 Bernstein, Susan, Virtuosity of the Nineteenth Century: Performing Music and Language in Heine, Liszt, and Baudelaire (Stanford, 1998)Google Scholar .

15 ‘Minimal music appears at the precise moment when advertising, the dominant discourse of the consumer society, switches decisively over to the low-involvement model of desiring-production. The critical year is 1965 … The dubious triumph of the consumer society is that desire can be processed and thus endowed with meaning thanks to the same kind of total control that governs industrial production.’ Robert Fink, Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2005), 158.

16 Abel, Samuel, Opera in the Flesh: Sexuality in Operatic Performance (Boulder, CO, 1996), 105Google Scholar .

17 Whitman, Walt, ‘Song of Myself’: A Sourcebook and Critical Edition, ed. Greenspan, Ezra (New York, 2005), 166Google Scholar .

18 Freud identified the processes of wish-fulfilment in fantasies and day-dreams outside nocturnal dreams, wherein: ‘the wishful purpose that is at work in their production has mixed up the material of which they [day-dreams] are built, has rearranged it and has formed it into a new whole’. Freud, , The Interpretation of Dreams [1900], trans. Strachey, James (London, 1954), 492Google Scholar .

19 Nietzsche, Friedrich, Basic Writings of Nietzsche, trans. Kaufmann, Walter (New York, 2000), 629Google Scholar .

20 Sloterdijk, Peter, Kritik der Zynischen Vernunft, 2 vols. (Frankfurt am Main, 1983), 1: 37ffGoogle Scholar .

21 Wagner, , Sämtliche Schriften und Dichtungen, Volksausgabe, 16 vols., ed. Sternfeld, Richard (Leipzig, 1911–14), 10: 137Google Scholar (hereafter SSD). Cf. Richard Wagner's Prose Works, trans. Ellis, William Ashton, 8 vols. (Lincoln, NB, and London, 1995), 6: 133134Google Scholar (hereafter PW).

22 ‘A product's brand name plays a major role in determining its immediate success upon introduction and its sustained prosperity as it matures.’ Shimp, Terence A., Advertising Promotion, and Other Aspects of Integrated Marketing Communications (Mason, OH, 2010), 71Google Scholar .

23 ‘We [Liszt and Wagner] make great game of interpretations and commentaries accorded to the words Sonderkunst and Gesamtkunst. It was not he [Wagner] but Uhlig who invented the word Sonderkunst.’ Liszt to Carolyn von Sayn Wittgenstein, 4 July 1853, Zurich, in Franz Liszt: Selected Letters (Oxford, 1998), 344.

24 Schadelwandt's lectures were printed in ‘Richard Wagner und die Griechen: Drei Bayreuther Vorträge’, in Hellas und Hesperien, 2 vols. (Zurich, 1970), 2: 341405Google Scholar . Notable secondary literature in English includes Deathridge, John, ‘Wagner's Greeks, and Wieland's Too’, in Wagner Beyond Good and Evil (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2008), 102112Google Scholar ; Goldhill, Simon, ‘Wagner's Greeks: The Politics of Hellenism’, in Performance, Iconography, Reception: Studies in Honour of Oliver Taplin, ed. Revermann, Martin and Wilson, Peter (Oxford, 2008), 453480Google Scholar ; Ewans, Michael, ‘Agamemnon's Influence in Germany: Goethe, Schiller and Wagner', in Agamemnon in Performance 458 BC–AD 2004, ed. Macintosh, F., Michelakis, P., Hall, E. and Taplin, O. (Oxford, 2005), 107118Google Scholar ; Lee, M. Owen, Athena Sings: Wagner and the Greeks (Toronto, 2003Google Scholar ); O'Sullivan, Neil‘Aristophanes and Wagner’, Antike und Abendland, 36 (1990), 6781Google Scholar ; Ewans, Michael, Wagner and Aeschylus: The ‘Ring’ and the ‘Oresteia’ (London, 1982)Google Scholar ; and Lloyd-Jones, Hugh, Blood for the Ghosts (London, 1982)Google Scholar . Recent German literature includes: Panagl, Oswald, ‘Literatur und Mythologie der Griechen in Richard Wagners Ring-Dichtung: Eine kommentierte Dokumentation. IV: Die griechische Antike im Spiegel von Selbstzeugnissen Richard Wagners: Mein Leben und die Cosima-Tagebücher’, in Ring und Gral, ed. Müller, Ulrich (Würzburg, 2002), 129137Google Scholar , and Müller, Ulrich, ‘Richard Wagner und die Griechen’ in ibid., 9294Google Scholar ; Marsoner, Karin, ‘Das Trojanische Pferd: Mythos im Spannungsfeld von Natur und Geschichte – Zur Kritik der griechischen Mythologie in Richard Wagners Schrift Oper und Drama’, in Das Trojanischen Krieg: Europäische Mythen von Liebe, Leidenschaft, Untergang und Tod im Musik-(Theater), ed. Csobádi, Peter (Anif-Salzburg, 2002), 549557Google Scholar ; Borchmeyer, Dieter (ed.), Wege des Mythos in der Moderne: Richard Wagner, ‘Der Ring des Niebelungen’: eine Münchner Ringvorlesung (Munich, 1987)Google Scholar ; and Forchert, Arno, ‘Droysen und Wanger: Zum Konzept des musikalischen Dramas’, in Neue Musik und Tradition, ed. Kuckertz, Josef (Laaber, 1990), 251257Google Scholar .

25 Nietzsche, Friedrich, Unpublished Writings from the Period of Unfashionable Observations, trans.Gray, Richard T. (Stanford, 1999), 318, 346Google Scholar ; Nietzsche expanded on the phrase ‘many-sided dilettante’, which occurs in his preliminary notes just cited, in Nietzsche, ‘Richard Wagner in Bayreuth’, in Untimely Meditations, trans. R. J. Hollingdale, ed. Daniel Breazeale (Cambridge, 1997), 200ff. See also, Hanslick, Eduard, ‘Lohengrin’, in Music Criticisms 1846–99, trans. Pleasants, Henry (London, 1950), 5961Google Scholar .

26 Mann, Thomas, ‘Leiden und Grösse Richard Wagners’, in Adel des Geistes (Stockholm, 1945), 402Google Scholar .

27 Theodor W. Adorno, In Search of Wagner, 18. Rebuttals of Mann's iconic statement continue to appear, as in Curt von Westernhagen's protest that the label dilettante: ‘has been bandied about, not only by laymen but by musical scholars who ought to have known that his “miraculous scores”, in Richard Strauss's phrase, could not possibly have been written by an amateur’. Westernhagen, , Wagner: A Biography, trans. Whittall, Mary (Cambridge, 1981), 28Google Scholar .

28 Adorno, Theodor W., Quasi una Fantasia: Essays on Modern Music, trans. Livingstone, Rodney (London and New York, 2002), 29Google Scholar .

29 Frye argues that ‘the basis of generic criticism … is rhetorical in the sense that the genre is determined by the conditions established between the poet and his public’. Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton, 1957), 247.

30 ‘[ich folgte unbewußt einer ganz anderen Anschauung] … anstatt einer Phase der Weltentwicklung, das Wesen der Welt selbst, in allen seinen nur erdenklichen Phasen.’ Wagner to August Röckel, 23 August 1856, Zurich, in Sämtliche Briefe, ed. Gertrud Strobel, Werner Wolf et al., vols. 1–9 (Leipzig, 1967–2000), vols. 10– (Wiesbaden, 2000–), 8: 153 (hereafter SB).

31 Wagner, SSD 3: 268. Cf. PW 2: 60. See also Borchmeyer, ‘The “Redemption” of the Romance in Musical Drama’, in Theory and Theatre, 128–60.

32 ‘All the tests these two characters [a generic boy and girl] are set, swept up in the series of trials and tribulations, all these episodes are constructed in order to know the extent to which they will be able to preserve [their] virginity, which in this literature, seems to me to be like the visible form of the relationship to the self in its transparency and mastery.’ Foucault, Michel, The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France 1981–82, trans. Burchell, Graham, ed. Gros, Frédéric (New York, 2005), 450CrossRefGoogle Scholar . See also the wider discussion of Classical topics in The Virtuous Life in Greek Ethics, ed. Burkhard Reis (Cambridge, 2006).

33 ‘Isabella war es, die mich begeisterte.’ SSD 4: 254. Cf. PW 1: 295.

34 See Deathridge, John, Geck, Martin and Voss, Egon, Wagner–Werk–Verzeichnis: Verzeichnis der musikalischen Werke Richard Wagners und ihrer Quellen (Mainz, 1986), 348419Google Scholar , esp. 404–12. See also Deathridge, , ‘Finishing the End’, in Wagner Beyond Good and Evil, 6878Google Scholar .

35 Deathridge, ‘Finishing the End’, 68.

36 Derrida, Jacques, Writing and Difference, trans. Bass, Alan (London, 1978), 17Google Scholar .

37 Wagner, SSD 3: 19. Cf. PW 1: 42.

38 Berlin, Isaiah, Three Critics of the Enlightenment: Vico, Hamann, Herder (Princeton and Oxford, 2000), 240Google Scholar .

39 Grimm, Jacob, Deutsche Grammatik, 2nd edn (Göttingen, 1822)Google Scholar , rpt Wilhelm Scherer (Berlin, 1870), rpt (Hildesheim, New York, 1989).

40 Kemble, John, John Mitchell Kemble's Review of Jakob Grimm's Deutsche Grammatik [1833], Old English Newsletter Subsidia 6 (Binghamton, 1981), 9Google Scholar .

41 Wagner's words are well known: ‘Before I wrote the poem of “Siegfried's death” – I sketched out the entire myth in its imposing overall context: that poem was an attempt … to present a crucial turning-point in the myth by hinting at the overall context … [it dawned on me] as I began the scenic-musical realization of “Young Siegfried”, that all I had done was to increase the need for a clearer presentation to the senses [an die Sinne] of the whole of the overall context. I now see that, in order to be fully understood from the stage, I must present the entire myth in visual terms [den ganzen Mythos plastisch ausführen].’ Wagner to Theodor Uhlig, 12 November 1851, SB 4: 174; Eng. trans. Spencer, Stewart and Millington, Barry, Selected Letters of Richard Wagner (London, 1987), 232233Google Scholar .

42 Eco, Umberto, Interpretation and Overinterpretation, ed. Collini, Stefan (Cambridge, 1992), 48CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

43 Ibid., 50ff.

44 ‘The wood bird, the animal which expresses its feelings most melodiously, lacks any capacity to accompany its song with gestures.’ Wagner, SSD 4: 92. Cf. PW 2: 225.

45 Deathridge, Wagner Beyond Good and Evil, 75.

46 Two nits: a sentence is oddly repeated verbatim within the epilogue (pp. 258, 260), and there are some unfortunate errors of clef (ex. 2, p. 70) and pitch (ex. 4, p. 72) in the musical examples. Otherwise, the presentation is excellent.

47 Foucault, Michel, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, trans. Hurley, Robert (New York, 1990), 78Google Scholar .

48 Rabelais, François, Gargantua and Pantagruel [1532–4], trans. and ed. Screech, M. A. (London and New York, 2006), 373ffGoogle Scholar .

49 Marcuse, Herbert, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Enquiry [1956] (Abingdon, 1998), 81Google Scholar .

50 Adorno, T. W., Minima Moralia [1951], trans. Jephcott, E. F. N. (London and New York, 2005), 111Google Scholar .

51 Arthur Schopenhauer, ‘Über die Weiber’, in Parerga und Paralipomena: Kleine Philosophische Schiften, 4 vols. (Zurich, 1977), ch. 27; Eng. trans. R. J. Hollingdale, ‘On Women’, in Essays and Aphorisms (London, 2004), 80–9; Friedrich Nietzsche, Basic Writings of Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York, 2000), 641.

52 ‘Die Liebe in vollster Wirklichkeit ist nun bloss innerhalb des Geschlechtes möglich: nur als Mann und Weib können wir Menschen am wirklichsten lieben.’ Wagner to August Röckel, 25–6 January 1854, Waldheim, SB 6: 62. Cf. George Bernard Shaw, The Perfect Wagnerite (New York, 1967), 121. For a discussion of this letter and its wider resonance within Wagner's aesthetics, see Emslie, Barry, Richard Wagner and the Centrality of Love (Woodbridge, 2010), 45ffGoogle Scholar .

53 Feuerbach, Ludwig, Principles of the Philosophy of the Future, trans. Vogel, Manfred (Indianapolis, 1986), 16Google Scholar .

54 Ibid., 27.

55 ‘Feeling grasps nothing but the actual [das Wirkliche], what is physically enacted, perceivable by the senses’. Wagner, SSD 4: 69. Cf. PW 2: 198.

56 ‘Die Sinnlichkeit unsres Geschlechts verändert sich mit Bildungen und Klimaten; überall aber ist ein menschlicher Gebrauch der Sinne das, was Humanität führet.’ Herder, Werke, vol. 6 ‘Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit’, ed. Martin Bollacher (Frankfurt am Main, 1989), 286.

57 ‘diese[r] heißblütig[e] Sohn des Südens.’ Wagner to Theodor Uhlig, 22 July 1852, Lugano, in SB 4: 419.

58 ‘sinnlich-warm.’ Wagner, SSD 12: 1. Cf. PW 8: 55.

59 Badiou, Alain, Five Lessons on Wagner, trans. Spitzer, Susan (London and New York, 2010), 84Google Scholar .

60 Ibid., 76.

61 Süskind, Patrick, Das Parfum (Zurich, 1985)Google Scholar ; Eng. trans. Woods, John E., Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (London, 2007), 8687Google Scholar .

62 Bekker, Paul, Wagner: Das Leben im Werke (Berlin, 1924), 320324Google Scholar .

63 Cosima Wagner: Die Tagebücher, 1 March 1869.

64 Susan K. de Ghizé, ‘Orgasm in Wagner's Transfiguration’, paper given on 9 July 2010 for the 16th Biennial Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music, Southampton University, UK.

65 Kopelson, Kevin, Beethoven's Kiss: Pianism, Perversion, and the Mastery of Desire (Stanford, 1996), 10Google Scholar .

66 Deathridge, John, ‘Introduction’, in Family Letters of Richard Wagner, ed. and trans. Ellis, William Ashton (Basingstoke and London, 1991), xxviiCrossRefGoogle Scholar .

67 ‘Mein gedenken an Dich und meine liebe zu Dir sind noch zu enthusiastisch … got gebe mir dann die fähigkeit, meiner liebe zu Die vollkommen genügen zu können.’ Wagner to Liszt, 5 June 1849, in SB 3: 72–3.

68 ‘Wenn ich Dir mein liebesverhältnis zu Dir beschreiben könnte! Da giebt es keine marter, aber auch keine wonne, die in dieser liebe nicht bebte! … Du bist ein wunderbarer mensch, und wunderbar ist unsre liebe!’ Wagner to Liszt, 18 April 1851, Zurich, SB 3: 543.

69 ‘Nun habe ich einen jungen König, der mich wirklich schwärmerisch liebt: Sie können sich so Etwas nicht vorstellen! Ich entsinne mich aus meinen ersten Jünglingsjahren eines Traumes, wo ich träumte Shakespeare lebte und ich sähe ihn, und spräche mit ihm, wirklich, leibhaftig; der Eindruck hiervon ist mir unvergesslich, und ging in die Sehnsucht über, Beethoven noch zu sehen (der doch auch schon todt war). Etwas Aehnliches muss in diesem lieblichen Menschen vorgehen, wenn er mich hat. Er sagt mir, er glaube es noch immer kaum, dass er mich wirklich habe! – Seine Briefe an mich kann Niemand ohne Staunen u. Entzücken lesen.’ Wagner to Eliza Willie, 9 September 1864, Starnberg, SB 16: 296–7.

70 Heidegger, Martin, ‘Die Frage nach der Technik’ [1953], in Vorträge und Aufsätze, ed. von Herrmann, Friedrich-Wilhelm (Frankfurt am Main, 2000), 7Google Scholar .

71 Rieger, Eva, Leuchtende Liebe, Lachender Tod: Richard Wagners Bild der Frau im Spiegel seiner Musik (Düsseldorf, 2009), 256Google Scholar .

72 Žižek, Slavoj, The Parallax View (London and Cambridge, MA, 2009), 17Google Scholar .