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View Diary: SNLC, Vol. CCCLXIV / SN@TO 16: Parsifal Edition (81 comments)

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  •  Girard didn't say so in his spiel, but I wonder... (5+ / 0-)

    .....if he did deliberately try to spread the religious net wider than a relatively narrow Christian-centric view, with full knowledge of Wagner's odious attitudes.  Certainly Buddhist ideas can be incorporated, for example.  Not that I'm expert enough in religions to be able to discuss cross-fertilization intelligently, of course.

    "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

    by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:08:39 PM PST

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    •  Wagner took a lot of flack at the time (3+ / 0-)

      from friends for making Parsifal too CHRISTIAN.  The Germanic race blood revival thing going on at the time had a strong anti-Christian element to it, and the pagan themes of The Ring were admired; Parsifal, not so much.  Some of Wagner's followers saw Parsifal as a betrayal.

      •  didn't that include..... (2+ / 0-)
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        Dumbo, RiveroftheWest

        ......"Nietzsche contra Wagner"?  Something I've heard about, but not read.

        "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

        by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 10:29:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nietzsche wrote three books about Wagner (3+ / 0-)

          Birth of Tragedy Through Music, his first book, which was pro-Wagner.  He was personal friends with Wagner at that time.

          Two others opposing him: The Case of Wagner and Nietzsche Contra Wagner.

          He also mocked him with the title of his book Twilight of the Idols.  (Götzen-Dämmerung.)

          He mocked both Wagner's politics and his music and the whole nationalism movement.  He also steeped enormous praise on Jews and Judaism and suggested that he preferred Judaism over Christianity (without endorsing both) because it was less weak and feminine.  When he made these comments though, there was an obvious tweaking of the nose intended at Wagner and his allies, who were writing crap about him back.

          I read Nietzsche as a teenager, so I knew more about Wagner through Nietzsche than I did through his actual music before I started collecting LPs.

          None of that is what makes Nietzsche interesting though.  

          Hmmm... Found this passage in wiki:

          Christian pity

          Christianity, as a religion of peace, is despised by Nietzsche. Pity leads to depression, loss of vitality and strength, and is harmful to life. Pity also preserves that which should naturally be destroyed. For a noble morality, pity is a weakness, but for Christianity, it is a virtue. In Schopenhauer's philosophy, which was the most nihilistic and opposed to life, pity is the highest virtue of all. But, for Nietzsche, pity "... multiplies misery and conserves all that is miserable, and is thus a prime instrument of the advancement of decadence: pity persuades men to nothingness! Of course, one does not say 'nothingness.' One says 'the Beyond' or 'God' or ' true life' or 'Nirvana,' 'salvation,' 'redemption,' 'blessedness.' ... Schopenhauer was hostile to life: therefore pity became a virtue for him."[13] The moderns Leo Tolstoy and Richard Wagner adopted Schopenhauer's viewpoint. Aristotle, on the other hand, recognized the unhealthiness of pity and prescribed tragedy as a purgative. "In our whole unhealthy modernity there is nothing more unhealthy than Christian pity."[13]

          That was one of his later books, The Antichrist.  We can see more nose-tweaking there.  But that pretty much goes to the heart of his philosophy, which saw modern morality as not evil but just stupid and destructive and -- this isn't his word but it might be closer to what he intended -- outmoded.  There's a visionary element to Nietzsche, where he doesn't really advocate anything at all, but just suggests some new kind of morality is just around the corner, and the Ubermensch (from Zarathustra) would be its herald.  

          Funny how much of this ultimately became mixed together with Wagner's nationalism in a polyglot by the Nazis.  I think it's safe to say Nietzsche would have been horrified by the Nazis, but all this talk of strength and no pity and ubermensches was incorporated into their philosophy.

          •  I don't think Parsifal is anti-semetic at all. (3+ / 0-)

            The Jew in Parsifal is Kundry and the villain is the ex- Grail knight Klingsor. Kundry collapses and dies in the final scene after spending the whole third act in the midst of the Grail-knights where Parsifal becomes king of the knights and there are no Nazis-types standing around saying Juden raus.
            Perhaps Alberich in the Ring is the closest to a Jewish type
            villain but otherwise I don't see any coming close. Merchant of Venice is actually much worse.

            I also don't agree about Wagner being an anti-semite the way Nietzsche's brother-in-law Foster was.

            Judaism in Music is from 1850 when a bitter ruined Wagner was on the run from the German police after the Revolution of 1848. That book predates the Aryan racial pseudoscience of de Gobineau and H. S. Chamberlain which is the real basis of Nazism.

            By 1880 antisemitism was a popular political movement
            and later Elizabeth Foster-Nietszche used her brother's books to give cover to the new antisemites.

            No genuine anti-semite would have had a lifelong friendship with Hermann Levi son of a rabbi or permitted him to perform at Bayreuth.

            •  Nietzsche had a troubled relationship (1+ / 0-)
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              with his sister because of Foster.  That's an interesting situation.  At one point, as I recall, she left Germany with Foster to create some kind of Aryan utopia in South America, but that collapsed and they had to return to Germany.

              I'm not that impressed with Wagner's relationship with Levi.  "See, I'm not a racist!  I have a friend who's a Jew!"  Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, and Wagner's mind wasn't that small.  Apparently that relationship wasn't based on reaching out a loving hand to the Jews but on other matters.

              The history of Aryan racial pseudo-science (not anti-semitism) has deeper roots, going back to philology.  This might be something you know, but if not, it should be interesting.

              Philology, Racism and Aryanism

              The discipline of philology entered a new phase after Sir William Jones announced his discovery in 1786, of the ancient mother tongue that originated both the Indian and the European languages. This ancient mother tongue was later referred to as Proto-Indo-European. Jones’ discovery1 initiated the revaluation of all languages, both living and dead, to reassert their historical and prehistorical connections...
              The early philologists thought that they could trace the journey of the German race using the similarities of language in a trail leading back to India.  In this theory, an ancient race of people known as the Aryans were the forefathers of the Germanic people who migrated north and west.
              Inscriptions of a Sanskrit-type language found in Germany were deemed to be the oldest in Europe and led many German philologists to conclude that Proto-Indo-European had entered Europe via the German plane, which in turn was used to create the theory that the Teutonic peoples were direct descendents of the Aryans, otherwise known as Aryanism...
              Cool, eh?  This is one of the reasons Himmler became so focused on Asian antiquities.  He wanted to find evidence to support this and a snowballing pseudo-science that had grown around this Aryan connection.

              The way all this began to snowball together during the 19th century (and well before Wagner even knew what a Jew was) is fascinating stuff, in a kind of Da Vinci Code way.  Philology became serious academia.  By coincidence, maybe, Nietzsche's own phD was in classical philology and he was chair of the philology department at Basel before wandered off into his unique poetry headspace.

              Interesting, from Wiki, under the heading of Classics:

              Further information: Philology
              For the journal, see Classical Philology (journal).

              There is a surviving tradition of Latin philology in Western culture connecting the Roman Empire with the Early Modern period.[3] The philology of Greek survived in the Byzantine Empire until the fall of Constantinople, and was re-introduced in Western Europe in the Renaissance.

              Classical philology was a major preoccupation of the 19th-century German[clarification needed] education system, which became "the paradigm for higher education" throughout Western culture.[dubious – discuss]

              Although less dominant than it used to be, philology retains a central role in classical studies.[4]So the groundwork for the pseudo-science was already established and growing before Wagner started publishing his screeds.  What he brought new to it was a kind romantic spiritualism of a mythical German past.

              Politically, though, aside from his nationalism and racism, he was a democrat, small D, so we have to give him credit for that.

              •  don't know all the details of the Nietzsche..... (1+ / 0-)
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       history, but my understanding is that Elisabeth, FN's sister, was responsible through her own racism of the taint that attached to her brother's philosophical writings, after his death.

                "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 10:15:49 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Feh. I blame Nietzsche for that. (0+ / 0-)

                  His language was over the top and macho sounding for stylistic reasons, and that created its own appeal to reinterpret it.  His sister wasn't the problem.  

                  I'm not into Nietzsche.  I'm just kind of pleased and amused that my reading in all that ever became useful.

                  The one good thing I took from Nietzsche was the idea that there was no correct moral system, and that all moral systems are just reflective of the culture they exist in.  Everything else he wrote about was pretty much bullshit.  He tried to apply Darwin's ideas of evolution, survival of the fittest, to the morality of cultures, the same way Marx was doing it with economics and the same way Schoenberg was clumsily trying to apply it to music.  

                  Remember that old BBC show, Upstairs, Downstairs?  About the upper class family that lives upstairs, and all the domestic servants downstairs, and the two groups have totally different communal lives that rarely intersect?  Nietzsche proposed that the morals of the downstairs people, what he would call slave morality, tended to be different from the morality of the masters.  Aristocracies place value on things like pride, fulfilling social obligations, justice, mercy, etc.  Those in the lower strata, though, place value on humility, not rocking the boat, generosity and sharing.

                  Now, how do you reconcile those to get some combo one-size-fits-all moral system?  You can't.  You can't reconcile the virtue of humility and the virtue of pride.  Western morailty, however, is an inconsistent mash-up of the two, and the inconsistencies cause problems.  

                  So how is this useful?

                  Well, consider for a moment, you were going to write a scifi novel where the only food you could eat was a sentient creature like you and me.  Say you're a vampire, for example, or an alien tiger species.  In that kind of situation, what kind of moral system would develop?  

                  You and I might agree that it's horrid to think of eating sentient creatures on a regular basis to survive, but what if you grew up in a culture where that's the norm, where anytime anybody suggested it might be wrong, that somebody pointed out, yup, oh well, that's life?  The entire moral system that developed in such a situation would be very different from ours, and it might even be perfectly consistent, but just different in an abhorrent way.

                  Likewise, think about somebody like Mitt Romney, addressing that room of donors, talking about the 47%.  He was speaking from the heart, dude, every bit as much as a world of vampires would be baffled by why humans wouldn't vote for vampires.  "47% of the planet is human, and we'll never get their vote.  They're so used to their not being eaten and getting free meals from corn and wheat that we'll never reach them!"

                  •  no, actually, his sister was the problem..... (1+ / 0-)
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                    .....or at least a problem.  The fact of her last name would seem to have lent credence by proxy to her racist ideas, and how she exploited her brother's writings.

                    "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                    by chingchongchinaman on Wed Mar 06, 2013 at 08:06:15 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

            •  catch with..... (0+ / 0-)

              .....Judiasm in Music is that Wagner had it reprinted later in life, i.e. he basically doubled down on what he wrote.  In addition, Swafford quotes Peter Gay's characterization of Levi as "Richard Wagner's favorite conductor and Jewish whipping boy".  Swafford also says that Wagner "could not help taunting his disciple with antisemitic gibes".  Levi evidently made excuses to his father on Wagner's behalf.

              My understanding is also that Cosima Wagner was a lot worse than her husband with respect to being a raving anti-Semite, which is saying something.

              "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

              by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 10:14:39 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Antisemitism grew as a political movement long (0+ / 0-)

                after Judaism in Music was written, especially in France culminating in the Dreyfus trial. It wasn't endorsed in Germany at all. I think Bismarck referred to the Jews as
                the champaign of Germany. Wagner was extremely overbearing and egotistical, for example he stole his second wife from his conductor and supporter von Bulow and republished just about everything he ever did. He told Schumann how to write his operas and I think he had Brahms copy out Rheingold as a favor. Bruckner always addressed him as the Master.
                What I am saying is that Wagner's anti-semitism was
                not much more than garden variety prejudice and a reflection of his personality, not the paranoia of the true anti-semite. I don't think bigotry alone leads to such a mass psychosis but conspiracy theories, pseudoscience,
                and fanaticism do (of which there is an abundance these days).  

          •  have actually read FN's..... (0+ / 0-)

            ......Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ, since they were conveniently in a single paperback Penguin volume.  Can't claim to have grasped them, though, but the book is still on my shelf if I ever want to thumb through it again.

            "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

            by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 09:58:17 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I didn't see any Buddhist influences. (2+ / 0-)

      In fact, I was stunned by the Christianity so important to the libretto.

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