• Wagnerism

    by Alex Ross
    Price $32.00
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    Wagnerism

Virtual Event: Alex Ross

presenting

Wagnerism:
Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music

in conversation with JAMES WOOD

Date

Sep
16
Wednesday
September 16, 2020
7:00 PM

Location

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series and the Boston Wagner Society welcome ALEX ROSS—celebrated music critic for The New Yorker and author of The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century—for a discussion of his latest book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music. He will be joined in conversation by renowned literary critic and author JAMES WOOD.

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About Wagnerism

For better or worse, Wagner is the most widely influential figure in the history of music. Around 1900, the phenomenon known as Wagnerism saturated European and American culture. Such colossal creations as The Ring of the Nibelung, Tristan und Isolde, and Parsifal were models of formal daring, mythmaking, erotic freedom, and mystical speculation. A mighty procession of artists, including Virginia Woolf, Thomas Mann, Paul Cézanne, Isadora Duncan, and Luis Buñuel, felt his impact. Anarchists, occultists, feminists, and gay-rights pioneers saw him as a kindred spirit. Then Adolf Hitler incorporated Wagner into the soundtrack of Nazi Germany, and the composer came to be defined by his ferocious antisemitism. For many, his name is now almost synonymous with artistic evil.

In Wagnerism, Alex Ross restores the magnificent confusion of what it means to be a Wagnerian. A pandemonium of geniuses, madmen, charlatans, and prophets do battle over Wagner’s many-sided legacy. As readers of his brilliant articles for The New Yorker have come to expect, Ross ranges thrillingly across artistic disciplines, from the architecture of Louis Sullivan to the novels of Philip K. Dick, from the Zionist writings of Theodor Herzl to the civil-rights essays of W.E.B. Du Bois, from O Pioneers! to Apocalypse Now.

In many ways, Wagnerism tells a tragic tale. An artist who might have rivaled Shakespeare in universal reach is undone by an ideology of hate. Still, his shadow lingers over twenty-first century culture, his mythic motifs coursing through superhero films and fantasy fiction. Neither apologia nor condemnation, Wagnerism is a work of passionate discovery, urging us toward a more honest idea of how art acts in the world.

Praise for Wagnerism

Wagnerism is monumental not only in scale but in accomplishment. Wagner casts a vast shadow over modern culture and it takes an incandescent critical intelligence to illuminate this legacy in its full complexity, distorted by neither hagiography nor demonology . . . Afro-Wagnerians jostle with Nazis, Gilded Age feminists share the stage with Zionists, gay Wagnerians consort with modernist litterateurs. The result is a singular achievement of scholarship, sensibility, and storytelling.” —Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of The Lies That Bind

“In this epic, extraordinary book, Alex Ross contends with the ‘infernal logic’ of Wagner’s legacy, through the centuries and across poetry, literature, art, philosophy, architecture, politics, war, film. Wagnerism is a hugely exhilarating read, and a virtuoso feat of scholarship and supple writing: Ross is such a companionable guide, connecting ideas so casually and unspooling stories so fluidly that you can almost lose sight of the ferocious erudition that undergirds every page. I can’t think of a better or more profound work about the long, complicated shadow of cultural influence.” ―Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Say Nothing

“Until now, what I didn’t know about Wagner and his influence on culture could have filled a book. Fortunately, Alex Ross’s brilliant evocation of the composer’s world more than elucidates Wagner’s various mysteries—it gives voice to why and how he came to be such a significant political and aesthetic influence on the world stage. Masterfully written and researched, Wagnerism is itself a masterpiece—a breathtaking achievement.” ―Hilton Als, author of White Girls

Alex Ross
Alex Ross

Alex Ross

Alex Ross has been the music critic for The New Yorker since 1996. His first book, the international bestseller The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won a National Book Critics Circle Award. His second book, the essay collection Listen to This, received an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2008 and a Guggenheim Fellow in 2015.

Photo Credit: David Michalek

James Wood
James Wood

James Wood

James Wood is a staff writer at The New Yorker and Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard University. He is the author of How Fiction Works, as well as the essay collections, Serious Noticing, The Broken Estate and The Irresponsible Self, and the novels, The Book Against God and Upstate.

 

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Virtual Event Series

Harvard Book Store’s award-winning event series continues online! Named "Best of Boston: 2020 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.

Co-Sponsored by Boston Wagner Society

The nonprofit Boston Wagner Society strives to promote the enjoyment and knowledge of Richard Wagner’s enchanting and profound operas, as well as his songs and instrumental music, through performances of Wagner’s works, presentations by authors and scholars, and more. Learn more at https://bostonwa.nextmp.net.

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