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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2008

E 322 • Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35225 MWF
12:00 PM-1:00 PM

Course Description

It has been said that after Jesus Christ and Shakespeare more has been written about the German composer Richard Wagner than any other individual. He had an enormous influence on succeeding generations. Eliot's The Waste Land contains five references to Wagner's works. James Joyce's novels are full of Wagnerian references. The interior monologue in the novel was an attempt to do in fiction what Wagner did with his "signature tunes" in the Ring. The modern theater owes so much to innovations Wagner brought to his Bayreuth festival theater.

This is a lecture and discussion course devoted to Wagner and his great music dramas, the Ring of the Nibelung, Tristan and Isolde, and Parsifal. The four operas that make up the Ring, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung, as well as Tristan and Parsifal will be studied in detail as will Wagner's unusual life, his philosophy, his aesthetics and his ideas about drama, and his virulent anti-Semitism. We will listen to the music, study its structure and the role of leitmotifs and keys. We will read the Norse and German myths and see how Wagner used them to create the text behind the operas. And if we succeed, we will understand what makes the Ring such an outstanding work of art, as popular today as ever.

Grading Policy

A formal research essay totaling a minimum of 2500 words is required. Students are required to meet with the writing mentor twice during the semester. As this is a course not only devoted to enhancing our knowledge about Wagner, but also about writing itself, the process of composition is equally, if not more, significant as the final product. There will also be a good bit of informal writing: Two abstract/summaries (200-250 words each) - a brief summary of the thesis and the main points of an argument; six one-page summaries; a collaborative essay; other in-class writing. The written work, formal and informal, will constitute 65% of the course grade, tests 25% and class participation 10%. There will be two on-line quizzes that can be taken anytime during the days: Oct. 12 and Dec. 7.

It will be your responsibility to watch the operas as we discuss them. They can be viewed in the Fine Arts Library or rented from local video stores. In addition I have a limited number of the operas on DVD that can be borrowed, preferably by groups of students.


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