RICHARD WAGNER:
MYTH, OPERA, AND POLITICS
 

Washington University
German 528, Fall 1997
Lutz Koepnick
 

Course Description
More than hundred years after his death, Wagner's music, theories, and political interventions remain a challenge and scandal. The name Wagner today signifies a site at which cultural critics, opera connoisseurs, and academics in a highly instructive manner battle over the politics of nineteenth-century art, over the ways in which we today should approach aesthetic artifacts of the past, and over the peculiar dialectics of social modernization and aesthetic modernism. This seminar revisits some of Wagner's most influential writings about art, myth, and politics, discusses the Ring cycle and music dramas such as Die Meistersinger and Parsifal, and inquires into Wagner's position in the work of some of his most notable contemporary and posthumous critics, i.e., Nietzsche, Mann, Adorno, and Syberberg. Special attention is given to the construction of categories such as race, nation, and gender in Wagner's works; to Wagner's visions of future art and his response to the 1848 revolution; to the inscription of nineteenth-century modernization in the "runes" of Wagner's mythological spectacles; and to the question of how contemporary popular and academic culture deals with the always-precarious legacy of Wagner's world. Discussion in English. Most readings in German.
 

Papers and Assignments
1. Presentations: Participiants will be asked to provide one in-class presentation on selected material.
2. Seminar Paper: Participants will be asked to compose in the course of the semester either:

a. two essays (5-8 pages), topics will be suggested or may be proposed;
b. one critical research paper (15-20 pages). Those students preferring to write a research paper will be asked to submit a one-page abstract and to have their topics approved by November 17.
All papers will be due by 2 p.m. on Monday, December 15.
 

Required Texts
Most readings (marked "[Rd]" in the syllabus) will be available in a reader to be purchased from the German department. The following books can be purchased at the Bookstore:

Adorno, Theodor W. Die musikalischen Monographien (Suhrkamp).
Wagner, Richard. Das Rheingold (Reclam).
---. Die Walküre (Reclam).
---. Siegfried (Reclam).
---. Götterdämmerung (Reclam).
---. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Reclam).
---. Parsifal (Reclam).

Miscellaneous Remarks
All music dramas and films are on two-hour reserve in Olin Library.

Grade Breakdown
Oral participation: 30%
In-Class Presentation: 20%
Written Work: 50%

Seminar Sessions
Mondays 4:00-6:00 pm

Office Hours
Ridgley 422
M 1-2 & W 1-2

Telephone
314.935.4007
lkoep@artsci.wustl.edu
 
 

COURSE SCHEDULE


Week One--9/8
Introduction: Wagner and Contemporary German Studies


Week Two--9/15
"You Say You Want a Revolution": Wagner on the Barricades

Richard Wagner, "Die Kunst und die Revolution" [Rd]
---, Mein Leben (sel) [Rd]
---, "Die Revolution" [Rd]
---, "Die Not" [Rd]


Week Three--9/22
Wagner's Aesthetic Utopia

Richard Wagner, "Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft" [Rd]


Week Four--9/29
Myth and Modernity I

Richard Wagner, Das Rheingold
---, Die Walküre


Week Five--10/6
Myth and Modernity II

Richard Wagner, Siegfried
---, Die Götterdämmerung


Week Six--10/13
Race, Ethnicity, and German Opera

Richard Wagner, "Was ist deutsch?" [Rd]
---, "Das Judentum in der Musik" [Rd]
---, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg


Week Seven--10/20
Art, Redemption, and Male Bonding: Parsifal at Bayreuth

Richard Wagner, "Das Bühenfestspielhaus zu Bayreuth (1873)" [Rd]
---, "Religion und Kunst" [Rd]
---, "Über das Weibliche im Menschlichen" [Rd]
---, "Das Bühnenweihfestspiel in Bayreuth 1882" [Rd]
---, Parsifal: Ein Bühnenweihfestspiel


Week Eight--10/27
Nietzsche contra Wagner

Friedrich Nietzsche, "Richard Wagner in Bayreuth" [Rd]
---, Der Fall Wagner [Rd]
---, "Nietzsche contra Wagner" [Rd]


Week Nine--11/3
The Sorrow and Grandeur of the German Soul: Thomas Mann Meets RichardWagner

Thomas Mann, "Wälsungenblut" [Rd]
---, "Wagner und unsere Zeit" [Rd]
---, "Größe und Leiden Richard Wagners" [Rd]


Week Ten--11/10
Ornament as Crime? Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen (1924/25)

Klaus Kanzog, "Der Weg der Nibelungen ins Kino" [Rd]
Lotte Eisner, "Die Nibelungen" [Rd]
Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler (sel) [Rd]


Week Eleven--11/17
Wagner and the Dialectics of Modern Culture: Adorno on Wagner

Theodor W. Adorno, Versuch über Wagner


Week Twelve--11/24
Fascist Aesthetics and the Total Work of Art

Guest: Prof. Karen Fiss, Department of Art History
Readings TBA


Week Thirteen--12/1
Wagnerian Allegories of Grieving: Syberberg and German Identity after Auschwitz

Anton Kaes, "Germany as Myth" [Rd]
Eric Santner, "Allegories of Grieving" [Rd]


Week Fourteen--12/8
The Legacy of the Total Work of Art: Who's Afraid of a Postmodern Wagner?

Udo Bermbach, "Das Gesamtkunstwerk" [Rd]
Andreas Huyssen, "Monumental Seduction" [Rd]
Michael Hein, "The Essence of VR" [Rd]
 

Screenings
Screening sessions take place on Tuesdays, 5:30 pm, in Ridgley 319.

Week One--9/9
    Das Rheingold
Week Two--9/16
    Die Walküre
Week Three--9/23
    Siegfried
Week Four--9/30
    Götterdämmerung
Week Five--10/7
    Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Week Six--10/14
    Parsifal
Week Eight--10/28
    Fritz Lang, Siegfried
Week Nine--11/4
    Fritz Lang, Kriemhilds Rache
Week Eleven--11/18
    Hans Jürgen Syberberg, Hitler, a Film from Germany (Part I)
Week Twelve--11/25
    Hans Jürgen Syberberg, Hitler, a Film from Germany (Part II)