L119 Fall 2018 Richard Wagner’s Medievalism: The Stories Behind the Music
Tuesdays, 11:50–1:15, Oct. 16–Nov. 6
Instructor: Amelia A. Rutledge
Medievalism treats the medieval period as a “usable past,” and like William Morris or Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Richard Wagner selectively appropriated from medieval literature. Wagner is praised for his musical innovations, but the plots of Der Ring des Nibelungen
, Tristan und Isolde
, and Parsifal
attest to the power of his medieval sources. Wagner imbued his plots with his social and sexual preoccupations, but dramatic effectiveness was his main concern. We will survey some of the complex background stories that were Wagner’s building blocks. Note: See the brief synopses of the Ring cycle on DocStore before the first session.
Amelia A. Rutledge
- Oct. 16: “Who’s Who in the Ring: Icelandic tales,” “The Lay of Regin,” “The Lay of Fafnir,” and “The Lay of Sigrdrifa.”
- Oct. 23: The Ring (families, revenge, and Ragnarok, the apocalypse): the Volsunga saga; The Nibelungenlied (selections in DocStore); and the Elder Edda (selections in DocStore).
- Oct. 30: Tristan (doomed lovers): the Irish story of Diarmuid and Grainne; French stories by Beroul and Thomas d'Angleterre; and the German Tristan (Gottfried von Strassburg).
- Nov. 6: Parsifal (from magical vessel to holy object): The Story of the Grail by Chrétien de Troyes; The Quest of the Holy Grail (anon.); and Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival.
is an associate professor of English at George Mason University; she holds a PhD in medieval studies from Yale University. She teaches courses in medieval literature (especially Arthurian legend), science fiction, fantasy, and children’s literature, and has published articles on those subjects.