The revolutionary writings of Richard Wagner are placed perfectly within a turbulent 19th century Europe. Wagner’s dissatisfaction with society was partially a product of his dissatisfaction with the art and artists that surrounded him. He protested against the restraints of religion, law, and capitalism, and instead, advocated his own views on the benevolence of brotherhood and human nature, and the sensuality of physical existence. His definition and desire for freedom took him to a position in opposition to the constraints of bourgeois materialism. He called for a social setting in which the spirit of humanity could roam free and fully express itself through art. This can create an atmosphere in which the people achieve the intellectual, spiritual, and artistic goals Wagner describes. Consequently, art would bring a culture to a transcendental utopianism, which would potentially save humanity.
My research, conducted at the Newberry Library in Chicago last spring, focuses on how Wagner’s revolutionary theories influenced his operatic works as well as his prose works. By analyzing these aspects of Wagner’s work, we can gain a clearer vision of his aims and goals toward social and artistic perfection.
Christopher Millard, ’99 Jordan, MN
Majors: History, Philosophy
Sponsor: James Martin