The Philosophies of Richard Wagner

The Philosophies of Richard Wagner

Language: English

Pages: 170

ISBN: 0739199943

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In addition to being a great composer, Richard Wagner was also an important philosopher. Julian Young begins by examining the philosophy of art and society Wagner constructs during his time as a revolutionary anarchist-communist. Modernity, Wagner argued, is to be rescued from its current anomie through the rebirth of Greek tragedy (the original Gesamtkunstwerk) in the form of the “artwork of the future," an artwork of which his own operas are the prototype.

Young then examines the entirely different philosophy Wagner constructs after his 1854 conversion from Hegelian optimism to Schopenhauerian pessimism. “Redemption” now becomes, not a future utopia in this world, but rather “transfigured” existence in another world, attainable only through death. Viewing Wagner’s operas through the lens of his philosophy, the book offers often novel interpretations of Lohengrin, The Ring cycle, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger, and Parsifal.

Finally, Young dresses the cause of Friedrich Nietzsche’s transformation from Wagner’s intimate friend and disciple into his most savage critic. Nietzsche’s fundamental accusation, it is argued, is one of betrayal: that Wagner betrayed his early, “life affirming” philosophy of art and life in favor of “life-denial." Nietzsche’s assertion and the final conclusion of the book is that our task, now, is to “become better Wagnerians than Wagner.”

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ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. Printed in the United States of America Contents Abbreviations vii Acknowledgments xi Introduction xiii I: Early Wagner Chapter 1: The Way We Are Now Chapter 2: The Greek Ideal Chapter 3: The Death of Art Chapter 4: The Artwork of the Future: Exploratory Questions 1 3 23 37 43 II: Later Wagner Chapter 5: Schopenhauer Chapter 6: Wagner’s Appropriation of Schopenhauer Chapter 7: Wagner’s Final Thoughts 63 65 87 111 Epilogue: Wagner and Nietzsche 131

the paradigm of the great artwork because individuals can flourish, can find genuine meaning in their lives, only through a contribution to community, and community can only come into articulate, enduring, and visible existence, through the mediation of the Gesamtkunstwerk. NOTES 1. Beschäftigung. The difference between Beschäftigung and Arbeit, like that (at least in English) between “occupation” and “job,” is that the former precludes activities that are demeaning or exhausting while the latter

enterprise Schopenhauer insists that music must always be the primary element since, as the “secret history of the will,” it gives “the innermost soul of events and occurrences” while words give their “mere cloak and body” (WR II:448). Music and the requirements of musical form have priority, in other words, because music is “metaphysical,” informs us of the reality behind the appearances. It does so, we are led to believe, because the will is the thing in itself. Contrary to the usual method,

in the North, than animals would by a quick and always unforeseen death, which should, however, be alleviated still more by means of chloroform” (TFP, 231). 11. Wagner’s embrace of vegetarianism was a late development. In contrast to his 1880 position, he had, in 1874—a year in which Nietzsche was flirting with vegetarianism and apparently not taking enough exercise—given him the peremptory instruction, “Swim, and eat meat!” (KGB II.4 To Nietzsche 529a). 12. The editors of the volume point out

so, of course, one will need institutions that will, in early Wagner’s language, “strengthen” the power of this communal ethos. That, Nietzsche 136 Epilogue still believes, is the task of art. In a section entitled “The Poet as Signpost to the Future” 8 he says the task for the artist of the present is to emulate the artists of earlier [Greek] times who imaginatively developed the existing images of the gods and imaginatively develop a beautiful image of man; he will scent out those cases in

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