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Steven Reale: Wedding bands as cyclic structures in 'Ring'

Posted: Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:00 am
by alberich00
Paul Heise's review of "Wedding Bands as Cyclic Structures in Wagner's 'Ring' Cycle," a talk presented by Steven Reale (Youngstown State Univ.) at the Wagner Worldwide 2013 bicentennial symposium sponsored by the Univ. of South Carolina in the winter of 2013:

What if the 'Ring' Cycle's meaning could be snapped into place by a single signifier? What if there are many signifier's? What if there are potentially contradictory signifiers?

Marriage is a major signifier in the 'Ring.'

The form implies a cyclic composition. Mary Douglas [PH: "Purity and Danger"?] on ring composition.

1. Prologue
2. 2 halves
3. Key word indicators

The left and right halves corrrespond

Wagner's method of writing the "Ring" libretto in reverse could have contributed to its form as a 'Ring' cycle.

Siegmund's and Sieglinde's marriage is completed by Siegfried and Sieglinde. Siegfried reforges his father Siegmund's broken sword, which Sieglinde had preserved for Siegfried.

Wotan's spear breaks Siegmund's sword, and Siegfried's sword (his father Siegmund's reforged sword) breaks Wotan's spear.

The Spear stands for authority; the sword Nothung is phallic.

Cycles of musical keys are repeated. Acts from each drama sometimes imply but don't center on a key.

Siegfried's two weddings:

One can't see the parts of the "Ring" in isolation. One must show their relationship to the overall form.


Question: One might see such patterns anywhere. You might be finding things that aren't really there.

Answer: No, I'm only offering one of a myriad of possibilities, a two-dimensional cross-section of the three-dimensional object.

Question: What about rotational form, a la Darcy? PH: I failed to record an answer to this question.

PH: I suspect any visitors to who have been sufficiently intrepid to read all or at least a large part of "The Wound That Will Never Heal" will agree that I have explored the potential significance of large-scale and long-range forms for our conceptual reading of the "Ring" in considerable detail, and with constant follow-up. In other words, having said something on this subject at one point, I have tended to demonstrate its conceptual significance for our reading of many other points and aspects of the "Ring," continuously throughout my study. This may give my book a certain redundancy but it was necessary to demonstrate the organic nature of Wagner's creation at every point within it. I have, for instance, shown how the "Ring" divides not only into a Prologue and trilogy, or tetralogy, following Greek models (a fact well known to many prior commentators), but also how it divides into two halves, i.e., Wotan's (religion's) half, and Siegfried's (art's) half, and that this latter half Siegfried has to share with Hagen (science), for in Feuerbach's scheme of world history religious faith in its decline splits into art (subjective feeling, the true heir to dying religious faith) and science (objective thought). I have also described how Wagner borrows this scheme, in a sense, from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, Wotan and the Valhallan Gods corresponding to the Old Testament's focus on God the Father, and Siegfried, the artist-hero and potential redeemer who lives for love and is free from fear, corresponding with Christ the redeemer. This was all very deliberate on Wagner's part, as one can see from many hints in the libretto text.

PH: I have also described how Wagner potentially sets us up to construe the "Ring" finale as implying an eternal return of the same "Ring" cycle.

PH: Prof. Reale is on the right track in seeking to demonstrate the importance of overall conceptual form for Wagner, in his "Ring." I hope I myself have made a worthwhile contribution to this subject of debate.