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Title: The political and religious thought of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung
Author: Berry, Mark Keith
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2002
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In this dissertation, I explore the political and religious ideas expounded in Wagner's Ring, through close attention to the text and drama, the wealth of Wagner source material upon Wagner (e.g. correspondence, prose works, other dramas, diaries, contemporary accounts), and the multifarious intellectual influences upon the composer during the work's lengthy gestation and composition. Classical interpretations have tended to opt either for an 'optimistic' view of the Ring, centred upon the influence of Young Hegelian thought - in particular the philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach - and Wagner's concomitant revolutionary politics, or for the aforementioned 'pessimistic' option, removing the disillusioned Wagner-in-Swiss-exile from the political sphere and stressing the undoubtedly important role of Arthur Schopenhauer. Such an 'either-or' approach seriously misrepresents not only Wagner's compositional method but also his intellectual method. It also sidelines inconvenient aspects of the dramas that fail to 'fit' whichever interpretation is selected. Wagner's tendency is not progressively to recent previous 'errors' in his œuvre; it is not Socratic. Radical ideas are not completely replaced by a Schopenhauerian world-view, however loudly the composer might come to trumpet his apparent 'conversion'. Nor is Wagner's truly an Hegelian method, sublating the partial verities arrived at hitherto into their allotted places in an intricate system of ever-changing dialectical mediation - although Hegelian dialectic plays an important role. In fact, Wagner is in many ways not really a systematic thinker at all (which is not to portray him as self-consciously unsystematic in a Nietzschean, let alone 'post-modernist' fashion). His tendency, rather, is agglomerative, ideas and influences proceeding to overlap, rather like a rudimentary geological overlay.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral