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Title: Redesigning life and art : the quest for a Gesamtkunstwerk in modern German art and thought
Author: Bryant, G. H.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2008
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The thesis traces a theme in modern art and intellectual history, the idea of a “total work of art”, from its inception in the “aesthetic revolution” of Early Romanticism and Idealist philosophy around 1800, via its programmatic articulation in the mid-nineteenth century, to some exemplary manifestations in art and architecture in the early twentieth century. Whilst references to a Gesamtkunstwerk abound a critical study dealing with its conceptual foundations, socio-political implications, ideological context, and its ambivalent place in the history of architectural modernism in particular, has long been missing. Chapter One deals with the literary-philosophical anticipation of the Gesamtkunstwerk in German Idealism and Early Romanticism.  In Chapter Two the conceptual foundations of the idea of Art as a prefiguration of life are discussed, followed by an analysis of the Gesamtkunstwerk in the context of nineteenth-century Romantic Historicism, in which, among other issues, the significance of the wide-spread notion of a “Great Style” and the idea of a Stilsynthese are emphasised. Chapter Three is devoted to the programmatic launch of the Gesamtkunstwerk by Richard Wagner, the aestheticization of past culture in the writings of the historian Jacob Burckhardt, and the culmination of the “aesthetic revolution” in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The second half focuses on important exponents of the quest for a Gesamtkunstwerk in the early twentieth century, that is, certain aspects of the Jugendstil and the œuvre of Peter Behrens in Chapter Four, and German Expressionism in Chapter Five. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the integration of the machine into the realm of Art. The proclaimed synthesis of aesthetics and technology in the first decades of the twentieth century is discussed as a reformation of the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk with far reaching consequences in modern culture.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available