From George Eliot to Neo-Nazi Skinheads: The Chaotic Cult of Richard Wagner

published 16.09.2020 11:00

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“One danger inherent in the incessant linking of Wagner to Hitler,” Ross says, “is that it hands the Führer a belated cultural victory — exclusive possession of the composer he loved.”

Not a single utterance of Hitler’s includes a reference to Wagner’s writings on the Jews, and anyone familiar with “The Ring” knows that the marriage of capitalism and fascism that underlies Nazi ideology is utterly at odds with Wagner’s anarchic societal vision.

Both Cather and Woolf had their own “shock of recognition” encounters with Wagner and wove their responses intricately into their fiction in ways more cleareyed and less besotted than many of the men.

Ross takes a deep dive into the psyches of Joyce, Proust, Mann and T. S. Eliot and returns with revelations, particularly in the case of “Ulysses” and “Finnegans Wake,” that may surprise even the most ardent scholar for the extent to which each of them was influenced by Wagner.

The “chaotic posthumous cult” that came to be known as Wagnerism was well underway even before the composer’s death in 1883, and Ross charts how differently Wagner was embraced in different countries.

by John Adams from

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