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Peter Hess, Chair 2505 University Avenue, Burdine Hall 336, Mailcode C3300, Austin TX 78712-1802 • 512-471-4123

Fall 2009

GRC 362E • Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
38665 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

This course contains a substantial writing component. Three 6-7 pp papers (one of which may be substantially rewritten) 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, texts 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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