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Wagner Androgyne

Wagner Androgyne

Jean-Jacques Nattiez
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 380
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  • Book Info
    Wagner Androgyne
    Book Description:

    That Wagner conceived of himself creatively as both man and woman is central to an understanding of his life and art. So argues Jean-Jacques Nattiez in this richly insightful work, where he draws from semiology, music criticism, and psychoanalysis to explore such topics as Wagner's theories of music drama, his anti-Semitism, and his psyche.

    Wagner, who wrote the libretti for the operas he composed, maintained that art is the union of the feminine principle, music, and the masculine principle, poetry. In light of this androgynous model, Nattiez reinterprets the Wagnerian canon, especially the Ring of the Nibelung, which is shown to contain a metaphorical transposition of Wagner's conception of the history of music: Siegfried appears as the poet, Brunnhilde, as music, and their union is an androgynous one in which individual identity fades and the lovers revert to a preconflictual, presexual state.

    Nattiez traces the androgynous symbol in Wagner's theoretical writings throughout his career. Looking to explain how this idea, so closely bound up with sexuality, took root in Wagner's mind, the author considers the possibility of Freudian and Jungian interpretations. In particular he explores the composer's relationship with his mother, a distant woman who discouraged his interest in the theater, and his stepfather, a loving man whom Wagner suspected was not only his real father but also a Jew. Along with psychoanalysis, Nattiez critically applies various structuralist and feminist theories to Wagner's creative enterprise to demonstrate how the nature of twentieth-century hermeneutics is itself androgynous.

    Originally published in 1997.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6324-2
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Jean-Jacques Nattiez
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Part One. Androgyny and the Ring:: From Theory to Practice

      (pp. 3-11)

      Because we shall be concerned essentially with the four parts of theRing, it seems sensible to preface the following remarks with a summary of its plot, reduced, so far as possible, to a neutral account of the action on stage. This, in turn, may help to make the subsequent interpretation more readily intelligible.¹

      Scene 1. On the bed of the Rhine. An orchestral prelude describes the surging floodwaters, in which the three Rhine daughters—Woglinde, Wellgunde, and Floßhilde—frolic and play, watched by the Nibelung Alberich, who tries in vain to seduce them. His gaze is arrested by a...

    • Chapter One THE THEORETICAL ESSAYS OF 1849 TO 1851
      (pp. 12-42)

      Hardly had wagner completed the full score ofLohengrinon 28 April 1848 when a whole new series of ideas began to clamor for his attention—The Nibelung Legend, the prose draft ofSiegfrieds Tod, an article on the Wibelungs, the prose draft ofWieland der Schmied, the essays. As we saw in the Introduction, theoretical reflections and plans for dramatic works went hand in hand at this crucial moment in the life of a man whose mind was teeming with a thousand simultaneous projects, as he glimpsed the creative opportunities for the whole of the rest of his life...

    • Chapter Two WIELAND THE SMITH
      (pp. 43-52)

      Four pages before the end ofThe Art-Work of the Futurethere is a veritable rhetorical upheaval—the theorizing stops and a brief transitional passage introduces a fictional narrative: “Since the poor Israelites once led me into the realm of the most beautiful type of all poetry, that of eternally new and eternally truefolk poetry, I intend to take my leave by retelling a glorious legend that the rough, uncivilized tribe of ancient Teutons once created for no other reason than inner necessity” (1849m,GS3.175). The pretext (“I want to tell you a story”) is feeble in the...

      (pp. 53-90)

      It must be stated at the outset that the following exposition of theRing, while reflecting our working hypothesis, does not claim to provide a comprehensive reinterpretation of the cycle as a whole. I am merely suggesting—as the previous chapter set out to show—that there is an organic link between the contents of Wagner’s theoretical essays and that of the works of art conceived at the selfsame time. Wagner finishedOpera and Dramaon 10 January 1851 and began work on the first prose sketch ofDer junge Siegfriedbetween 3 and 10 May of that year, two...

      (pp. 91-96)

      The reader may be tempted to ask whether it was legitimate to super-impose a reading of Wagner’s theoretical writings on theRingwhile at the same time exploiting the linking role thatWieland the Smithappears to play between aesthetic reflection and artistic creation. I am all the more convinced of the rightness of this approach in that the case we have been studying—theRingas the artistic metaphor of a theoretical construct elaborated in tandem with it—is far from being unique in Wagner’s overall oeuvre.

      There is a remarkable note inOpera and Dramadiscussing the relationship...

  7. Part Two. Music and Poetry:: The Metamorphoses of Wagnerian Androgyny

    • Introduction to Part Two
      (pp. 99-101)

      The first part of the present study was an attempt to propose a first level of interpretation of the figure of androgyny in two different orders of discourse. A parallel was drawn between these two different orders on the assumption that the complex symbolic configuration that resulted did not vary in the course of Wagner’s life.

      This analysis must be extended a stage further, however, since the link between androgyny and Wagner’s conception of the relationship between poetry and music turns out to be far more complex when one realizes that the image of androgyny appears only sporadically in Wagner’s...

      (pp. 102-127)

      I spent some time in Part One identifying the existence of the metaphor of androgyny in Wagner’s writings of the years 1848–51 and in theRing. More specifically, I tried to show how love—the cornerstone of Greek homogenized society inThe Art-Work of the Future—persists in the androgynous union of poetry and music inOpera and Drama. It is impossible to proceed to an interpretation of this metaphor without first seeing how it relates to Wagner’s other theoretical ideas. Certainly, its very evolution betweenThe Art-Work of the FutureandOpera and Dramainvites us to pay...

    • Chapter Six MUSICA TRIUMPHANS (1851–1873)
      (pp. 128-162)

      Until now I have proceeded on the assumption that Wagner’s writings pose no particular problems of interpretation. The reader may be surprised, therefore, on perusing the introduction to this second section, to discover that different writers on die subject have arrived at such widely differing views of the relationship between words and music—so widely differing, in fact, that I was able to divide them into three completely distinct families of “plots.”

      In fact, each of Wagner’s essential concepts can all too easily lend itself to confusion. First, there is the worddichten, which essentially means “to compose a poem,...

    • Chapter Seven THE RETURN OF ANDROGYNY (1878–1883)
      (pp. 163-172)

      There are no significant texts for five years, but there is a good reason for this silence: Wagner was absorbed in preparations for the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876, so that when, in 1879, he was consumed by a new desire for theorizing, he had behind him the experience of staging theRingaccording to his own instructions, even if the production fell far below his expectations. Not only was he reminded of the intellectual atmosphere of 1848–52, the work itself nowexisted: the score had been performed and the drama realized on stage. Moreover, Wagner had finished the...

    • Conclusion to Part Two
      (pp. 173-178)

      In the Introduction to Part Two I pointed out that the writers who have discussed the relationship between words and music in Wagner’s works fall into three groups: those for whom Wagner always accorded primacy to music, even when he said the opposite; those for whom the true Wagner is the author ofOpera and Drama; and those, finally, who admit the existence of changing points of view throughout the composer’s career. It will be clear by now that my own position is close to that of the third group even if, in singling out the theme of androgyny in...

  8. Part Three. Wagner and Androgynous Hermeneutics

      (pp. 181-218)

      When an idea so important and so closely bound up with sexuality as androgyny passes through the mind of a creative artist, psychoanalysis suggests itself as an unavoidable explanational paradigm. Of course, Wagner is no longer here to lie down on the psychoanalyst’s couch, so that one of the basic requirements of analytical interpretation—the technique of association—is missing. But psychoanalysis has accumulated sufficient results for it to be possible, on the basis of a given text and of biographical information transmitted by history, to make a connection between what Charles Mauron has called “obsessive metaphors” and “personal myth.”...

    • Chapter Nine ANIMUS-ANIMA
      (pp. 219-235)

      Even if Jung practically never used the word “androgyny,” there is no doubt that the concept is central to the school of analytical psychology that he founded. “Of all the schools of contemporary psychoanalysis,” writes Gaston Bachelard, “it is the school of C. G. Jung that has shown most clearly that the human psyche was originally androgynous” (1960, 50). In order to demonstrate how this concept operates, there is no need on this occasion to invent a specious interpretation, since the works of both Jung and his disciples contain more than one analysis not only of the relationship between male...

      (pp. 236-253)

      In the light of Lévi-Strauss’s claim that Wagner is “the undeniable originator of the structural analysis of myth” (Lévi-Strauss 1964, 15), it is perfectly legitimate to pursue our examination of the possible ways of explaining Wagner’s androgyny by appealing to Lévi-Strauss’s structuralist method, not least because this approach provides an unexpected opportunity to test the wav that dominant paradigms function in twentieth-century human sciences. Among these human sciences the anthropological structuralism of Lévi-Strauss certainly figures prominently.

      Does the data collected in our opening section enable us to propose a structural explanation of the relationship that Wagner establishes between poetry and...

      (pp. 254-262)

      It is impossible to emphasize often enough to what extent today’s human sciences are close to Romantic thought—so much so, indeed, that it is possible to confuse the discourse of Lévi-Strauss with that of Wagner. After psychoanalysis and structuralism, we need to considersocialparadigms, in particular Marxism, in our survey of androgynous hermeneutics.

      The myth of the androgyne and Marx’s historico-social vision rest upon an analogous model: there was once an original unity, that of primitive communism, which was destroyed by the emergence of private property and feudalism and which will be restored by the revolution that ushers...

      (pp. 263-274)

      To date, our own generation has been confronted with three major approaches—both theoretical and practical—to the interpretation of literary texts and works of art.

      We do not need to linger over the first of them, described around 1965 as “university criticism” by its detractors among adherents of the New Criticism. What was involved was the whole exegetical tradition from Lanson onward, a tradition that argued that in order to reveal the meaning of a text, it was necessary not only to establish the exact letter and reconstruct the history of its different versions according to the principles of...

    (pp. 275-302)

    To sum up the position reached so far: it is not possible to reduce any work, whatever it may be, to a single network of meanings. It has more than one meaning, but that does not mean that the interpreter can say what he or she likes. There is more than one type of Wagnerian androgyny.

    There are three reasons for this. First, as the second section of our study showed, the theme of androgyny recurs at various stages in Wagner’s life and works and, in consequence, is modified semantically at each of its manifestations.

    Second, the figure of androgyny...

    (pp. 303-322)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 323-338)
    (pp. 339-352)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 353-359)