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Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner's Ring

Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner's Ring

Paperback

By (author) Phillip Kitcher, By (author) Richard Schacht

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Paperback | 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 137mm x 203mm x 12mm | 213g
  • Publication date: 6 October 2005
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0195183606
  • ISBN 13: 9780195183603
  • Edition statement: Oxf Univ PR Pbk.
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 586,920

Product description

Few musical works loom as large in Western culture as Richard Wagner's four-part Ring of the Nibelung. In Finding an Ending, two eminent philosophers, Philip Kitcher and Richard Schacht, offer an illuminating look at this greatest of Wagner's achievements, focusing on its far-reaching and subtle exploration of problems of meanings and endings in this life and world. Kitcher and Schacht plunge the reader into the heart of Wagner's Ring, drawing out the philosophical and human significance of the text and the music. They show how different forms of love, freedom, heroism, authority, and judgment are explored and tested as it unfolds. As they journey across its sweeping musical-dramatic landscape, Kitcher and Schacht lead us to the central concern of the Ring-the problem of endowing life with genuine significance that can be enhanced rather than negated by its ending, if the right sort of ending can be found. The drama originates in Wotan's quest for a transformation of the primordial state of things into a world in which life can be lived more meaningfully. The authors trace the evolution of Wotan's efforts, the intricate problems he confronts, and his failures and defeats. But while the problem Wotan poses for himself proves to be insoluble as he conceives of it, they suggest that his very efforts and failures set the stage for the transformation of his problem, and for the only sort of resolution of it that may be humanly possible-to which it is not Siegfried but rather Brunnhilde who shows the way. The Ring's ending, with its passing of the gods above and destruction of the world below, might seem to be devastating; but Kitcher and Schacht see a kind of meaning in and through the ending revealed to us that is profoundly affirmative, and that has perhaps never been so powerfully and so beautifully expressed.

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Author information

Philip Kitcher is John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. He is the author of seven previous books, is a past president of the American Philosophical Association (Pacific Division), and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He currently holds the Romanell Professorship in Philosophy, awarded annually by Phi Beta Kappa. Richard Schacht is Professor of Philosophy and Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His previous books include Hegel and After, Nietzsche, The Future of Alienation, and Making Sense of Nietzsche.

Review quote

"In Finding an Ending Kitcher and Schacht break free from the contemporary cliches of producers determined to show Wotan as nothing more than a capitalist crook, and of commentators more interested in Wagner's political and ideological opinions than in his surpassing artistic achievement. It is the latter that they are exclusively concerned with, and they argue their case with style and passion. The result is the most rewarding new account of the Ring that I have read in many years, and it will surely take its place as one of the classics of Wagner criticism." -Michael Tanner, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University, and author of Wagner "Eloquent...there is none of the extreme tone which so dominates both anti-Wagner tirades and expressions of Wagner idolatry. Instead, the mood introduced at the outset and maintained throughout is dignified and circumspect... An analytic gem...[Kitcher and Schacht's] definitions and explanations [are] crystal clear... Their discussion on the Ring teems with intimate references to musical movements, some of them truly moving... This book will surely satisfy Wagner aficionados as much as it will make those who are new to the Ring feel welcome."-Nicholas Vazsonyi, Wagner Notes "This book examines the richness and complexity of Der Ring des Nibelungen. I particularly enjoyed the careful analysis of each of the important characters in their society, their psychological undercurrents, and their reactions to others. Philip Kitcher and Richard Schacht demonstrate how these mythological gods and heroes are ultimately recognizable as purely human." -Jane Eaglen "Each chapter contains thought-provoking discussions that will intellectually engage readers, even those who are unmoved, or perhaps repelled, by Wagner's music and ideas... This book plunges more deeply into the intricacies of character development in the Ring itself, touching more lightly upon the details of philosophical inquiry. Recommended for all collections."-Library Journal "Determined like no other composer to 'fathom the depths of philosophy,' Wagner wrote operas exploring the elemental passions and conflicts of the human condition. Kitcher and Schacht, distinguished philosophers in their own right, present a profound analysis of the guiding ideas of the Ring which enables us to grasp as never before the power of Wagner's most ambitious work." -Charles E. Larmore, University of Chicago Law School "A strikingly successful reading of Wagner's music drama as a philosophical meditation on the meaning of human existence and freedom." -Paul Boghossian, New York University