Wagner and the Novel.
Wagner’s Operas and the European Realist Novel: An exploration of genre.
Amsterdam/New York, NY, 2012, 235 pp.
Internationale Forschungen zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft 156
"Much of Wagner and the Novel is a delight to read. Ridley (a leading Germanist) has that rare gift of writing as if he were talking to the reader directly, with point and charm. He is a fine literary critic, as his superb analysis of the opening of Henry James' The Ambassadors in quasi-musical terms shows [...]"
-Christopher Webber, Opera (January 2013) pp. 128-130
"Wagner and the Novel is an inspiring, yet at times uncomfortable and provocative book, which will be received differently by individual readers. In that sense, it is a worthy birthday present for an artist who has been stirring the emotions for almost 200 years."
- Kasper van Kooten, in Vooys 31.1 2013
This study bridges literature and music at an exciting and controversial point, offering the lover of music and literature and the specialist reader an insight into the relationship between Wagner’s operas and the nineteenth century novel, including comparisons with Rigoletto and Der Rosenkavalier in their evolution from other forms. It discusses matters of genre and national tradition, placing Wagner’s works in the heritage of the European Enlightenment.
Comparisons of Wagner’s works with the novel have been fleeting, denoting only their length and complexity. Examining in principle and in detail the proximity of Wagner’s themes and techniques to the practices of the Realist novel, this study sheds original light on major issues of Wagner’s works and on opera as genre.
The book trawls extensively in two research fields. It looks to the established Wagner literature for understandings of the musical procedures which map his works onto the prose fiction, while reading Wagner’s operas against the backdrop of the European novel, rather than against German Romantic fiction. It revisits Adorno’s music sociology and his seminal study of Wagner, but repositions many elements of his argument. Unusually, this book adopts a critical stance to Nietzsche’s view of Wagner. In marked contrast to Nietzsche, the study regards parallels between Wagner and Flaubert as an enrichment of our understanding of Wagner’s achievement.
The book concludes with a major question of European cultural history: why it is that – in common with Italy, but in marked contrast to France or England – Germany’s most representative works in the nineteenth century are operas rather than novels.
Table of Contents
Establishing the Key-signature
Wagner and the Novel: the existing view
Forms of Collaboration across the Genres
Wagner and the Realist Novel – mostly about Die Meistersinger with some Ring
Questions, Answers and Body Language in Wagner and the Realist Novel
Wagner and Freudian Psychology
Opera, Novel and the Nation