Modern Myths and Wagnerian Deconstructions: Hermeneutic Approches to Wagner's Music-Dramas

Modern Myths and Wagnerian Deconstructions: Hermeneutic Approches to Wagner's Music-Dramas

Modern Myths and Wagnerian Deconstructions: Hermeneutic Approches to Wagner's Music-Dramas

Modern Myths and Wagnerian Deconstructions: Hermeneutic Approches to Wagner's Music-Dramas

Synopsis

Consisting of six studies that present hermeneutical analyses of Wagnerian dramas, this book discusses Wagner's mature single dramas from Hollander to Parsifal with reference to the concept of Romantic irony and the basic theoretical orientation of post-structuralism. Wagner is best known as a composer of mythological works, but these music-dramas contain basic problems that contradict what is usually regarded as their mythological or legendary nature. They all self-referentially play out certain critical processes. Focusing on the very issue of interpretation, this work asks how Wagner's dramas use their legendary or mythological raw material in a specifically 19th-century Romantic way to create meaning. It is argued that by means of Romantic irony, internal self-reflection or self-consciousness, each work deconstructs its own mythological or legendary nature.

Excerpt

Richard Wagner's work, probably more so than that of any other composer, lends itself to extramusical approaches. He is, of course, known primarily for his music. But his works, as he stressed, are not pure music, but rather music-dramas, and his emphasis was obviously upon the second part of the hyphenated compound, to which the first was, according to Oper und Drama, only a means. One can argue that he was not consistent with this theory, and that his prose also contains many blatantly contradictory viewpoints as well. Scholars debate which was more important -- words, music, or drama -- and during which period of his life.

His later theoretical works that use a Schopenhauerian metaphysics of music embedded within a theory of music-drama do evince a certain shift of emphasis toward music. But Wagner never fully denied what he had written in Oper und Drama. After he read Schopenhauer, drama was still as important to Wagner as it had been earlier; the music just, he now felt, contained the drama within itself. One can debate how successful his incorporation of Schopenhauer's philosophical metaphysics of music into his theory of music-drama was. But the fact still remains that he was concerned with drama, and not "pure music." One could say that the emphasis shifted insofar as he put drama and music on an equal basis.

Moreover, the plots, scenes, figures, and objects of his dramas, the verbal texts of which he wrote himself, clearly place them within the German literary tradition. Wagner's libraries and Cosima's diaries show that he was incessantly reading and thus that he was well acquainted with the German cultural tradition, the literary and philosophical heritage within which he was working and upon which he was in his own way building. Further-

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