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

Fall 2004

E 322 • Wagner: the Ring, Tristan and Parsifal

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32810 MWF
10:00 AM-11:00 AM
GEO 2.202

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, and 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.

This is a lecture and discussion course devoted to Wagner and his great musical dramas 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 learn to understand 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

Three papers totaling 16-20 pages are required. Each paper will be fully critiqued, with English mistakes corrected, marginal notes, and concluding evaluation. The written work will constitute 60% of the grade, tests 30% and class participation 10%.


Byock, Jesse, The Saga of the Volsungs, U. of California Press
Magee, Brian, The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy, Oxford
Hatto, A. tr., The Nibelungenlied, Penguin
Wagner, R. tr. A. Porter, The Ring of the Nibelung, W. W. Norton


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