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Thread: Okay, like the mod said, let's continue our discussion about Wagner and nazis...

  1. #61
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elgars ghost View Post
    Perhaps Arthur Rackham's celebrated Ring artwork inadvertently muddies the waters at times - I once showed images of Rackham's Wagnerian work to a friend of mine, one who had no knowledge of Wagner or his music (or Rackham for that matter, despite being a casual art fan). As soon as he saw the depictions of Alberich and Mime he immediately asked if they were anti-semitic caricatures, as they resembled some anti-Semitic depictions he had seen some years previously when reading about the politics of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

    I like to think that Rackham had no intentions here, but I wonder whether my friend wasn't the first one to react in that way when seeing those images for the first time.
    Hmmm. Rackham's illustrations never suggested Jewish caricatures to me - but then, given my understanding of Wagner's mythical imagery, that simply wouldn't be something I'd be on the lookout for. The book with the illustrations was first published in 1910, in the period shortly before WW I when antisemitism was particlarly virulent in Europe amid political tensions and through the infusion of pseudo-scientific notions of biological racial hierarchies and ideas of controlling the constitution of society through eugenics. These ideas were popular in America as well; it was Henry Ford, not Wagner, to whose antisemitism Hitler paid tribute in his own writings. I can find nothing to indicate that Rackham was an antisemite.

    The real question here is whether the small stature and ugliness of Alberich and his fellow Nibelungs have any necessarily racial implications at all. I grew up reading a lot of myths, legends and fairy tales from many lands. In these stories, good characters are always physically beautiful and bad characters are usually ugly (unless they're cruel narcissists like the queen in Snow White, who in any event transforms herself into an ugly old crone). The body is portrayed as an outward expression of the soul. Bringing this principle closer to home, Wagner's mythical beings have their roots in ancient myths of Teutonic origin. Alberich is an amalgam of two characters: in Norse mythology a dwarf named Andvari, who lives under a waterfall, can transform himself into a fish, and owns a magic ring that anables him to accumulate wealth; and in the German Nibelungenlied a dwarf who guard's the Nibelungs' treasure and has the strength of twelve men, but is overpowered by Siegfried.

    Given this mythological background and Wagner's specific sources, and given the enormous number of unattractive traits attributed to Jews in the popular imagination of the 19th century - basically, anything unappealing you can think of - we might ask just how an evil dwarf who lives under the earth and wields a ring of power which brings him great wealth could escape looking antisemitic to some people. Still, given the knowledge of Wagner's personal attitudes, people sensitive to the issue did and do draw the conclusion that his villains are intended to look and sound like popular images of Jews. Jewish author Marc Weiner devotes an entire book to arguing that thesis. I haven't read that book, but I do know that it contains enough false statements and poor scholarship to put it in the category of "antiwagnerism."
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jan-16-2020 at 20:07.

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  3. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by elgars ghost View Post
    I haven't the faintest idea. I thought the Tenniel pictures may have been lampoons of Disraeli because he had a reputation of being a snappy and colourful dresser in an era when less dandy-ish garb was becoming the norm.
    Sorry, I was posing a rhetorical question. I just wanted to show that it seems to me that the same questions - and the same difficulty obtaining answers - applied in this case (Carroll/Rackham) as in Wagner/Rackham. Whilst we know Wagner was antisemitic, do we know whether Rackham was, or whether he was under any guidance from Wagner?

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
    Sorry, I was posing a rhetorical question. I just wanted to show that it seems to me that the same questions - and the same difficulty obtaining answers - applied in this case (Carroll/Rackham) as in Wagner/Rackham. Whilst we know Wagner was antisemitic, do we know whether Rackham was, or whether he was under any guidance from Wagner?
    Wagner was almost 30 years dead when Rackham's illustrations were published. They came about midway between Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I haven't heard of anyone suggesting that Gollum is an antisemitic caricature, despite the fact that Gollum's repulsive appearance and hissing speech is well-described by Tolkien, while Wagner's libretto gives no description of Alberich.

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    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    1900-ish Rothschild caricature. Now it has been mentioned, it's easy to see similar in Rackham, especially when one considers the "beauty" of the non-Nibelungs in his engravings....

    images.jpeg

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimace View Post
    TC will never be unpleasant. Some topics are unpleasant.
    Perhaps some topics here are discussed, or debated, a wee bit too often without the offering of any additional insight. But I'm happy when the discussion turns to Arthur Rackham, one of my favorite illustrators. Some of the dwarves in his Wagner illustrations remind me very much of the character Dobby in the Harry Potter movies, and I think the similarity is not a coincidence. Harry Potter's mythical world, like Wagner's, is conspicuously free of both Jews and Christians (though churches and especially church graveyards do appear), and again, I think the similarity is not a coincidence. Magic and wizardry do not mix very well with Judeo-Christian ideas.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    Perhaps some topics here are discussed, or debated, a wee bit too often without the offering of any additional insight. But I'm happy when the discussion turns to Arthur Rackham, one of my favorite illustrators. Some of the dwarves in his Wagner illustrations remind me very much of the character Dobby in the Harry Potter movies, and I think the similarity is not a coincidence. Harry Potter's mythical world, like Wagner's, is conspicuously free of both Jews and Christians (though churches and especially church graveyards do appear), and again, I think the similarity is not a coincidence. Magic and wizardry do not mix very well with Judeo-Christian ideas.
    Literature of the Middle Ages mixed them freely. Celtic myth and Christian legend fused to become the Grail stories, including Chretien de Troyes's Perceval and Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, as well as Sir Galahad and the rest of the round table crew. Christian writers George MacDonald, J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams wrote modern stories of magic and wizardry. Wagner's Tannhauser and Lohengrin incorporate Christian ideas (though a bit subversively), and of course his own Parsifal, loosely based on the medieval tales, which I one third-jokingly call the last great Christian art work - one third, since it's also one third Buddhist and one third Freud/Jung (probably it's three thirds sui generis). I'm sure others could suggest more examples of amalgamations of Christianity and pagan magic.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jan-17-2020 at 07:25.

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    Senior Member Baron Scarpia's Avatar
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    Yes, the Norse mythology and Christian imagery blended together and the Jewish caricature borrowed from characters in Norse myths. A degenerate or evil Norse character is going to resemble a Jewish caricature by default. That is not the issue. From my point of view Wagner shows more sympathy for some of his supposedly "Jewish" characters than he does for his teutonic gods, like Wotan, who have high status and don't live up to it.

    The problem is that Wagner didn't just assimilate the anti-Semitism which was endemic in his age, he was a political agitator who wrote vile anti-Semitic tracts. He was wise enough, in my view, to keep that garbage separate from his musical art.

    I regard it as a question for the individual, whether knowledge of Wagner's despicable personal character is enough of a distraction to taint listening to his music. For me, personally, these considerations only come into play if the art itself is discernible tainted, of if the artist is alive and materially benefiting from art I buy. Neither applies to Wagner.
    Last edited by Baron Scarpia; Jan-17-2020 at 20:34.
    There are two kinds of music, good music and the other kind. - Duke Ellington.

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  12. #68
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    Yes, the Norse mythology and Christian imagery blended together and the Jewish caricature borrowed from characters in Norse myths. A degenerate or evil Norse character is going to resemble a Jewish caricature by default. That is not the issue. From my point of view Wagner shows more sympathy for some of his supposedly "Jewish" characters than he does for his teutonic gods, like Wotan, who have high status and don't live up to it.

    The problem is that Wagner didn't just assimilate the anti-Semitism which was endemic in his age, he was a political agitator who wrote vile anti-Semitic tracts. He was wise enough, in my view, to keep that garbage separate from his musical art.

    I regard it as a question for the individual, whether knowledge of Wagner's despicable personal character is enough of a distraction to taint listening to his music. For me, personally, these considerations only come into play if the art itself is discernible tainted, of if the artist is alive and materially benefiting from art I buy. Neither applies to Wagner.
    If that was so why didn't he keep it to himself? He appears to have been completely unashamed of it. He surely would have thought it not wrong to include it in his art. Why should his art be free of it when his writings and philosophy are not? That is the question. The matter cannot be proved either way but it does seem to me a bit wishful to think that none of Wagner's views got through to his art any more than none of Emanuel Schikaneder's racist and misogynistic views got though into a certain of Mozart's librettos
    Last edited by DavidA; Jan-17-2020 at 21:13.

  13. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    If that was so why didn't he keep it to himself? He appears to have been completely unashamed of it. He surely would have thought it not wrong to include it in his art. Why should his art be free of it when his writings and philosophy are not? That is the question. The matter cannot be proved either way but it does seem to me a bit wishful to think that none of Wagner's views got through to his art any more than none of Emanuel Schikaneder's racist and misogynistic views got though into a certain of Mozart's librettos
    No one's arguing that none of Wagner's views got through to his art. They are saying that not all of his views necessarily did. Stop mischaracterzing other's arguments and perspectives already.

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    Let's try it.

    A tale of toleration, by Woodduck.

    DavidA: "I believe that Wagner's antisemitism is present in his art as well as his writings and philosophy. It's wishful thinking to believe otherwise."

    Talkclassical User: "I don't see any good reason to believe that Wagner's antisemitism is present in his art, and I see good reasons to believe it isn't."

    DavidA: "There's more than one view on this, and many people share my view."

    Talkclassical User: "Many people can be wrong."

    DavidA: "Well it's my opinion and I'm entitled to it."

    Talkclassical User: "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. What facts can you offer?"

    DavidA: "There are two sides to every issue."

    Talkclassical User: "Not necessarily. But if there are, one side may be right and the other wrong. Not all views are equally valid. Here are some reasons why your view is likely to be incorrect and some evidence in support of mine."

    Rebuttal 1

    Rebuttal 2

    Rebuttal 3

    Rebuttal 4

    Rebuttal 5

    Rebuttal 6

    Rebuttal 7

    Rebuttal 8

    Rebuttal 9

    Rebuttal 10

    Rebuttal 11

    Rebuttal 12

    DavidA: "My side has reasons and evidence too."

    Talkclassical User: "Do you intend to state them?"

    DavidA: "Reputable sources back me up."

    Talkclassical User: "That isn't reasons or evidence."

    DavidA: "Why can't you just accept that people can have different points of view?"

    Talkclassical User: "I accept that they do. I just don't accept their conclusions. I've given you facts, as well as deductions from those facts, that show why your point of view is problematic at best. Can you do the same?"

    DavidA: "I don't have to prove anything to you. Noted authorities agree with me."

    Talkclassical User: "What makes them authorities? Noted by whom? Each other?"

    DavidA: "What makes you such an authority?"

    Talkclassical User: "I'm not an authority. I'm just giving you reasons why one view is more valid than another."

    DavidA: "There's more than one side to every issue."

    Talkclassical User: "You said that before."

    DavidA: "There's no right and wrong on this. There are just different opinions."

    Talkclassical User: "Not all opinions are equally valid."

    DavidA:"You're being intolerant! You're not letting me express my opinion!"

    Talkclassical User: "Yes I am. You've expressed it, several times. Now I'm asking you to back it up with facts and clear reasoning, and to consider the objections I've raised."

    DavidA: "Can't we just agree to disagree?"

    Talkclassical User: "So you want to be able to make ex cathedra statements and not be challenged? You don't want to question the ideas you hold? You don't want genuine debate? You want a megaphone and not a forum?"

    DavidA: "I have a right to state my opinion and you have no right to censor me!"

    Talkclassical User:


    [several months pass]


    DavidA: "I believe that Wagner's antisemitism is present in his art as well as his writings and philosophy. It's wishful thinking to believe otherwise."
    Last edited by Byron; Jan-17-2020 at 22:06.

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  17. #71
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    You're a brave man, Byron.

  18. #72
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    Yes, the Norse mythology and Christian imagery blended together and the Jewish caricature borrowed from characters in Norse myths. A degenerate or evil Norse character is going to resemble a Jewish caricature by default. That is not the issue. From my point of view Wagner shows more sympathy for some of his supposedly "Jewish" characters than he does for his teutonic gods, like Wotan, who have high status and don't live up to it.
    Wagner said at least once that he loved Alberich and his other creatures from the dark underworld. Is this something he would have said had he viewed them as Jewish caricatures? On the other hand, he recognized and remarked upon the resemblance between some of his protagonists and the legendary "wandering Jew," especially the Flying Dutchman. Kundry presents an even more obvious example, but often overlooked is the figure of Wotan as Wanderer, seeking his own redemption. The thought of all these sympathetic characters as Jewish certainly throws a grenade into the simple-minded view that Wagner was out to portray Jews as villains.

    We might also consider the possibility that Wagner's feelings about Jews were a bit more nuanced and ambivalent than we like to think.

    The problem is that Wagner didn't just assimilate the anti-Semitism which was endemic in his age, he was a political agitator who wrote vile anti-Semitic tracts. He was wise enough, in my view, to keep that garbage separate from his musical art.
    Just one small correction. There was only one antisemitic tract.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jan-17-2020 at 22:52.

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  20. #73
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    If that was so why didn't he keep it to himself? He appears to have been completely unashamed of it. He surely would have thought it not wrong to include it in his art. Why should his art be free of it when his writings and philosophy are not? That is the question. The matter cannot be proved either way but it does seem to me a bit wishful to think that none of Wagner's views got through to his art any more than none of Emanuel Schikaneder's racist and misogynistic views got though into a certain of Mozart's librettos
    You really can't see your questions as presuming things not in evidence and not necessarily implied?

    The racism and misogyny in Zauberflote is quite explicit.

  21. #74
    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I'm sure others could suggest more examples of amalgamations of Christianity and pagan magic.
    Just to put it that way, citing "Christianity" and "pagan magic", shows that we are talking about two different things, though as you and others here say a story can be an amalgamation from both sources to some extent. What I meant was, for example, Wagner's Ring world has gods. In Judeo-Christian, and for that matter, Islamic theology, there is one God. Harry Potter's world includes churches, but they are usually dark and empty and well in the background, and a version of the afterlife that is very far from Christian. Game of Thrones and Carnival Row (a current TV series loosely patterned after Game of Thrones and Harry Potter) actually feature entire fictional religions, and we don't get a lot of details about them, even whether they are monotheistic. (Amusingly, in Carnival Row, in place of a crucifix, we see a figure in a hangman's noose. So I suppose some sort of Christian-like religion prevails.)

    But for me, it is the existence of dwarves, elves, fairies, ogres, and other such mythical, magical, human-like but not-quite-human beings that is most profoundly inconsistent with Judeo-Christian thinking. It's interesting that these creatures have survived in folklore and flourished to the current day long after their pagan roots have disappeared.

  22. #75
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    But for me, it is the existence of dwarves, elves, fairies, ogres, and other such mythical, magical, human-like but not-quite-human beings that is most profoundly inconsistent with Judeo-Christian thinking. It's interesting that these creatures have survived in folklore and flourished to the current day long after their pagan roots have disappeared.
    Sure, the church tried to banish those beings, but it could only drive them underground or see them syncretized with the spirit beings of its own tradition. Don't forget, Christianity has angels and demons, which easily turn into fairies and trolls. I suspect it took the secular Enlightenment to finally depaganize the Christian West, but although "Judeo-Christian thinking" of a more sophisticated kind may deny the existence of spirits of the forest and the waters, humans seem fond of them, and in such matters feeling trumps thinking. Nibelungs and mermaids, hobbits and orcs, still charm us because they're manifestations of primal aspects of human nature which neither theology nor rational philosophy can explain away.

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