Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination

Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination

Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination

Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination

Synopsis

"This book addresses one of the most hotly contested debates in contemporary cultural life: the question of how anti-Semitism figures in the operas of Richard Wagner. Until now, scholars have generally acknowledged Wagner's anti-Semitism but have argued that it is irrelevant to the operas themselves. Marc A. Weiner challenges that traditional view by asserting that anti-Semitism is a crucial, pervasive feature in Wagner's operas. Weiner argues that the operas exemplify and contribute to a vast collection of images that are patently anti-Semitic - and that were readily recognized as such by nineteenth-century German audiences. These images were associated particularly with the body. Through a careful examination of Wagner's music, libretti, and stage directions, Weiner reconstructs iconographies of corporeal images - iconographies of the eye, voice, smell, gait, and sexuality - that were essential to the operas and were "associated with anti-Semitism and the longing for an imagined German community.""--BOOK JACKET. Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

There is no anti-Semite who does not basically want to imitate his mental image of a Jew, which is composed of mimetic cyphers. -- Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment

G leaming or dripping eyes, a resonant or screeching voice, the bodily aromas of youthful love or the stench of sulfur and flatulence, the steady tread of a muscle- bound warrior or the lopsided, hobbling gait of a diminutive, hairy, goatlike creature whose skin is ashen or deathly pale -- these are images of the body through which Richard Wagner metaphorically expressed his theories concerning the failings of nineteenth-century Europe and his vision of a superior and future Germany. For Wagner the body is the site in which the ideological becomes visible; it is both metaphor and physical reality, a vehicle for communicating abstract aesthetic and social concepts and, at the same time, a physiological manifestation of the purported veracity of the issues with which it is associated. But while the ideas with which Wagner identified the body in his essays and music dramas were often novel, iconoclastic, and even weird, the corporeal images through which he expressed them were not his invention but part of a widespread motivic vocabulary laden with specific connotations in his culture. The body in Wagner's works thus takes on two dimensions: it both expresses -- virtually incorporates -- his revolutionary theories concerning social-aesthetic issues and reveals him to be, like his contemporary audience, a member of his culture steeped in beliefs and values characteristic of his age.

This book, accordingly, examines two interrelated subjects: the function of corporeal images within Wagner's theoretical reflections and music dramas, and the iconographic traditions in his culture from which he drew these images. I approach Wagner from two complementary vantage points: as an idiosyn-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.