Epilogue Part 2: Critique Kitcher & Schacht 'Finding an Ending'

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: alberich00, Justin Jeffrey

Post Reply
Site Admin
Posts: 519
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:03 am

Epilogue Part 2: Critique Kitcher & Schacht 'Finding an Ending'

Post by alberich00 » Fri Aug 06, 2021 11:43 am

Here, for instance, Kitcher and Schacht sum up Wotan’s drastic, desperate response to the fact that his wife Fricka has forced him to acknowledge that his vaunted, allegedly free hero Siegmund (to whom Wotan looked for redemption from Alberich’s Ring Curse and from the twilight of the gods Alberich's Curse will bring to pass), isn’t free but merely a reflection of Wotan’s own fear and self-deception. Though his emotional outburst prompts Brünnhilde to beg Wotan to confide in her (which he does in his famous confession from The Valkyrie Act Two Scene Two, a confession Wagner described as the most important scene for the development of the drama), Kitcher and Schacht fail to cite the musical motifs which express Wotan’s explosion of despair:

“Wotan laments his lack of freedom, portraying himself as caught in his own toils; and when Brünnhilde questions him further, he breaks out in passionate grief. But his daughter’s devoted concern … prompts him to an extraordinary and lengthy revelation.” [P. 43]

If Kitcher and Schacht had taken a few moments to register the musical motifs in play during Wotan’s outburst (which one might fairly have expected them to do since Deryck Cooke made so much of Wotan’s outburst and the resonances of the motifs heard in the orchestra which express it musically [See Cooke, p. 66-73]), they would have discovered the following:

“(H50 = #51:; H81 = #82:) O righteous disgrace! O shameful sorrow! (H78 = #79:) God’s direst need! God’s direst distress! (H39 = #40:) Infinite fury! Grief neverending! (H35 = #37:) The saddest am I of all living things!”

The five motifs in play are H50 = #51 (Alberich’s Ring Curse), H81 = #82 (Wotan’s Revolt - introduced for the first time in this passage as a hallmark of Wotan’s confession in which Wotan responds to Brünnhilde’s compassionate plea to confide in her), H78 = #79 (Fricka’s reproach to Wotan about the threat the lawless Wälsungs he’s championed - Siegmund in particular - pose to the gods’ rule), H39 = #40 (Love in its tragic aspect), and H35 = #37 (the Loveless Motif derived from H16 = #18, the motif to which Alberich renounced love for the sake of the Ring’s power, and to which Siegmund embraced his tragic love for his sister-bride Sieglinde in preparation for pulling Wotan’s sword Nothung out of Hunding’s House-Ash).

Having failed to note the extraordinary motival resonances at play during Wotan’s outburst which precedes his confession to Brünnhilde, Kitcher and Schacht are inevitably unprepared to register the implications of this passage for that motivally analogous moment hours later (Siegfried Act Three Scene Three) in which Brünnhilde expresses her overwhelming fear of the potential consequences of consummating a sexual union with Siegfried (accompanied by H50 = #51, H81 = #82, and H78 = #79, a clear motival evocation of Wotan’s outburst from The Valkyrie Act Two Scene Two), though she’d previously expressed her acquiescence to such a union if it could be with the hero (Siegfried) who alone could fearlessly penetrate Loge’s protective ring of fire to wake and win her:

“[Siegfried’s] … overt advance prompts a startled and unreceptive Brünnhilde to reflect on love present and love past, and to confront the choice between open-ended empathic love and exclusive erotic love, whose nature and power she is now beginning to learn. (…) Her first intimations of sexuality seem to her to bespeak a frightening and dark world, to be contrasted with the lucid image that emerges with the introduction of the ‘Idyll’ theme.” [P. 161]

As a consequence of their obliviousness to the striking motival cross-references to Wotan’s outburst at work in Brünnhilde’s panic in the face of Siegfried’s sexual overtures, a virtual premonition of doom at the thought of consummating the sexual union with Siegfried to which she’d already reconciled herself in the finale of The Valkyrie, Kitcher and Schacht have absolutely nothing to say about the motifs at work expressing her fear. Wagner, by the way, shared his following observation about the causes for both Siegfried’s fear of waking Brünnhilde, and Brünnhilde’s fear of consummating her love with Siegfried, in Siegfried Act Three Scene Three, with Cosima: "A profound, indescribable impression; a wooing of the utmost beauty; Siegfried's fear, the fear of guilt through love, Brünnhilde's fear a premonition of the approaching doom; her virginal and pure love for Siegfried truly German." [801W - {7/18/71} CD Vol. I, p. 391]. Kitcher and Schacht instead advance a thesis, reasonable enough in their ignorance of the significance of the motifs in play, that Brünnhilde, as a formerly immortal and chaste goddess who previously only knew empathic love, naturally fears her first sexual union as a virtual extinction of her former identity. But Scruton in his The Ring of Truth was more attentive:

“Siegfried begs her to awaken again - to be a woman to him. Brünnhilde sinks into doubt and dread. The curse motif sounds in the orchestra, together with the motifs of Wotan’s revolt and Fricka’s moral judgment … - suggesting that Brünnhilde’s trouble now, on the verge of giving herself to a mortal, originated in the cosmic dilemma of Wotan, when in despair he bequeathed the world to Alberich’s son.” [Scruton, P. 114-115]

I provide here the text of Brünnhilde’s explosion of despair and fear of having sexual union with Siegfried (to which she finally reconciles, and embraces with joy), with its accompanying motifs:

“(H81 = #82:) Grieving darkness clouds my gaze; (H50 = #51 variant:) my eye grows dim, its light dies out: (H81 = #82:) night enfolds me; (H50 = #51:) from mist and dread a confusion of fear now writhes in its rage! (H78 = #79/H83 = #84:) Terror stalks and rears its head!”

H81 = #82, H50 = #51, and H78 = #79 are the three key motifs which reference Wotan’s original outburst of angst and self-doubt, to which Scruton alluded, heard here again expressing Brünnhilde’s fear of consummating sexual union with Siegfried. Another motif heard here but not during Wotan’s outburst is H83 = #84, one of Wotan’s two anger motifs, but which Wagner introduced during Wotan’s confession to Brünnhilde in The Valkyrie Act Two, Scene Two in association with Wotan’s self-lacerating acknowledgment that he finds with loathing only his corrupt self in all he tries to do to bring about redemption from Alberich’s Ring Curse through the agency of a free hero, and that Wotan is therefore incapable of creating or finding such a free hero. Kitcher and Schacht are right to say that the formerly chaste goddess Brünnhilde, now deprived of godhead, fears sexual union per se (they add that the only kind of love she previously knew was non-exclusive empathic love), and that her plea that Siegfried not force himself on her (set to two themes from Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll) reflects to some degree her wish to preserve the sanctity of her august past, but the motival cross-reference from Brünnhilde’s panic in the face of Siegfried’s urgent desire back to Wotan’s moment of decision which led him to confess a hoard of knowledge to her, knowledge (of the inevitability of the twilight of the gods) which he told her he dare not speak aloud lest he lose the grip sustaining his will, tells us (at least subliminally) something far deeper and more disturbing. She's having a premonition that Siegfried will betray her trust in some way, and not only bring about the twilight of the gods, but the twilight of their love, both of which are inextricably bound up with Alberich’s Ring Curse. She’s also, therefore, having a premonition that Siegfried will succumb to Alberich’s Ring Curse just as his father Siegmund and grandfather Wotan did. What’s at stake, and what unites these two moments of despair suffered respectively by Wotan and Brünnhilde, is that by winning her love Siegfried falls heir to the forbidden hoard of knowledge which Wotan confessed to Brünnhilde after asking her to keep it secret, saying that in confiding it to her it would remain forever unspoken in words. Brünnhilde is having a premonition that Siegfried, in betraying her, will also betray that secret she keeps for Wotan to the light of day, which, as I demonstrated in my online Ring book, is the very plot of Twilight of the Gods.

For the same reason, Kitcher and Schacht misconstrue Siegfried’s fear of waking Brünnhilde, which, as I’ve explained, stems from the same cause as Brünnhilde’s fear of becoming Siegfried’s lover. The following is virtually all they have to say about Siegfried’s initial fear of waking Brünnhilde, commentary that, again, omits the crucial motival reference which expresses Siegfried’s fear:

“Naiveté is part of Siegfried’s nature; and this entails an ignorance that must somehow be dealt with. Wagner’s solution was to have him express it in lines that at least appear to be among the worst pieces of libretto he ever wrote (and must be awful to deliver, with a straight face), from blurting ‘Das ist kein Mann! [Better left untranslated]’ to crying out to his mother’s memory for help. (…) But upon reflection, we suspect that this scripting is quite deliberate and has a point. For as we see him, Siegfried is meant to be a hero whom it will be difficult to respect … .” [P. 159]

Here, in compensation for Kitcher’s and Schacht’s omission of the most important clue (a motival clue, needless to say) which Wagner offered to explain what’s behind Siegfried’s sudden onset of fear prior to waking Brünnhilde, is the key passage which partially includes and follows the one to which they allude in their remarks above. A moment after Siegfried exclaims: “No man is this!,” after having cut through Brünnhilde’s breastplate to reveal her breasts, and being wholly overcome with emotion, he cries out:

“(H65 = #66:) To save me, whom shall I call on to help me? Mother! Mother! Remember me! (…) How shall I awaken the maid so that she opens her eyes for me? (H141B = #132b:) Opens her eyes for me? What though the sight might yet blind me! Might my bravery dare it? Could I bear their light? - (H147A = #137a:) Around me everything floats and sways and swims; searing desire consumes my senses: on my quaking heart my hand is trembling! - (H102 = #98) What is this, coward, that I feel? (H147A = #137a:) Is this what it is to fear? - O mother! Mother! Your mettlesome child! A woman lies asleep: (H102 = #98:) she has taught him the meaning of fear!”

Having failed to learn fear from Fafner, the guardian of Alberich’s Nibelung Hoard, his Tarnhelm, and his Ring with its Curse, Siegfried has now learned it from Brünnhilde, because she's Wotan’s repository for his hoard of knowledge he found so fearful he daren’t speak it aloud (consciously) to himself. The specific motif associated in this passage with Siegfried’s fear, which Brünnhilde has taught him, is H147A = #137a, which, as Deryck Cooke demonstrated, is a baroque variant of H80 = #81, the motif (derived ultimately from Wotan’s Spear Motif H19 = #21) Wagner introduced in The Valkyrie Act Two Scene One to express Wotan’s rising conviction that his wife Fricka was correct in her accusation that Siegmund isn’t the free hero Wotan hoped for, but a mere reflection of Wotan’s own fear and self-deception. So, just as in the case of Brünnhilde’s fear of consummating her predestined sexual union with Siegfried, Siegfried’s fear of waking and winning Brünnhilde is his own subliminal premonition that in winning her love Siegfried is falling heir to that irresolvable conundrum and imperishable guilt which compelled Wotan to renounce his hope that Siegmund could redeem the gods from Alberich’s Ring Curse. Siegfried will fail as a redeemer just as his father Siegmund failed, and this motival reference to Wotan’s fear and self-delusion is the musical expression of Siegfried’s premonition.

Having ignored this crucial motival reference which explains what’s truly behind Siegfried’s anxiety in the face of waking Brünnhilde (that he’s inheriting Wotan’s irresolvable existential dilemma from her, and that it therefore might rise to consciousness in him), and having also omitted any mention of the resonant musical motifs which link Brünnhilde’s fear of consummating a loving union with Siegfried with Wotan’s irresolvable dilemma, it’s again no surprise that Kitcher and Schacht are reduced to informing us that what, in my interpretation, is Wagner’s allegorical representation of the artist-hero Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration by his muse, his unconscious mind, Brünnhilde, in Siegfried Act Three Scene Three, “… has to fail as a depiction of true - and therefore necessarily mutual - love”:

“The ludicrous character of this moment infects the scene that follows. For all its psychological fascination, it has to fail as a depiction of true - and therefore necessarily mutual - love.” [P. 159-160]

Well, the solution to Kitcher’s and Schacht’s dilemma is that Wagner never intended Act Three Scene Three of Siegfried to be a depiction of “… true - and therefore necessarily mutual - love” in the first place. Siegfried and Brünnhilde taken together are an allegorical being, Wagner’s depiction of the relationship of the music-dramatist to his own unconscious mind, his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration. It doesn’t help that throughout their book Kitcher and Schacht construe Siegfried’s seemingly naïve and clunky heroism as totally divorced from Brünnhilde’s capacity for love and its redemptive power, as if they could be considered in isolation from each other. A couple of relevant extracts from among many similar ones will illustrate my point:

“… the idea that what will replace Wotan’s rule of law is the triumph of heroism - is accompanied by a second option: the possibility of an order based on the sway of love.” [P. 115]

“Brünnhilde’s dawning new capacity for love is a very different thing from the heroism that is Siegfried’s primary stock-in-trade, and also from the adolescent style of love he brings to her - even if he himself begins to discover the possibility of a richer love through her, and perhaps at the end has grown enough to be capable of realizing it with her.” [P. 115-116]

In my interpretation Siegfried’s fearlessness, heroism, and status as a potentially free redeemer, are the direct product of Brünnhilde knowing for him what he doesn’t consciously know, his true identity, prehistory, and fated destiny, all grounded in Wotan. This is the ultimate, allegorical meaning of the love they share, and the authentic explanation of what many, including Kitcher and Schacht, and even Scruton, seem to find puzzling or even disturbing about Siegfried.

One final example of their inattention to motival cross-references in the Ring, which would have been invaluable in interpreting the motives behind Siegfried’s and Brünnhilde’s words and actions, will suffice. Referencing the moment in Siegfried Act Three, Scene Three in which Brünnhilde tells Siegfried something he doesn’t understand, that Brünnhilde felt what Wotan thought (what Wotan confessed to her), and that what Wotan thought was just her love for Siegfried, Kitcher and Schacht say that:

“She [Brünnhilde] takes him [Siegfried] to be supremely noble and therefore to be loved and cherished - as are all noble things, but beyond all others. So she articulates what she takes to be ‘Wotan’s thought’ - a thought she was previously unable to express but is now seen as asserting the priority of the heroic and worthy, whose epitome she takes to be the youth before her.” [P. 160]

In my allegorical reading, Wotan’s confession (God’s Word) of his desperate need for a free hero (savior/redeemer) was the seed the god planted in the womb of his wishes Brünnhilde, giving metaphysical (or if you will, virgin) birth to Siegfried via Brünnhilde, Siegfried’s surrogate mother. She not only named Siegfried (when we would otherwise have expected his natural birth mother Sieglinde to do so) but knew Siegfried’s mother Sieglinde was pregnant with Siegfried when Sieglinde didn’t know. Lacking any sense of the allegorical meaning at work in Brünnhilde’s remarks to Siegfried with their motival accompaniment, which convey to him that he, and their love, are in effect the product of Wotan’s confession, Kitcher and Schacht reduce Brünnhilde’s profound comments to Siegfried to meaningless generalities about some vague notion of Siegfried’s nobility, heroism, and worthiness, which Wotan wanted her to respect and love. They reduce to bland nothingness what for Wagner was sharply defined and profoundly meaningful, saying (absurdly in light of the fact that Wotan made Brünnhilde, his “Will,” his other half, the repository for his confession) that Brünnhilde articulates to Siegfried “… what she takes to be ‘Wotan’s thought’.” Brünnhilde doesn’t “take” anything to be Wotan’s thought: she, in her relationship to Wotan’s hoped for savior Siegfried, is the embodiment, the soul, the innermost feeling, the music of Wotan’s thought. Here’s the passage with its motival component:

“(H151 = #141:) I loved you always: to me alone was Wotan’s thought revealed. The thought which I could never name; (H82b = #83:) the thought I did not think but only felt; the thought for which I fought; (H99 variant = #96 variant:) did battle and have striven; for which I flouted him who thought it; (H97 variant = #94 variant:) for which I atoned, incurring chastisement, because, not thinking, (H99B = #96b:) I only felt it! Because that (H143 = #134:) thought, - could you only guess it! - was but my love for you.”

Wotan’s thought (after his failure to produce a truly free social revolutionary in Siegmund, who should have redeemed the gods from Alberich’s Ring Curse by transforming corrupt society into one of love and justice), the essential content of his confession to Brünnhilde, was that he needed a hero freed from the gods’ rule (from religious faith), who could take possession of Alberich’s Ring and its Curse, and Wotan’s hoard of forbidden knowledge, aesthetically, through that art which the muse Brünnhilde would inspire, to preserve as feeling (in redemptive art, transfigured by music - Brünnhilde) what Wotan had had to renounce as thought, religious faith. Only in this way could post-religious man be redeemed from Alberich’s Ring Curse of consciousness, which was bringing religious faith, the gods, to an end. Brünnhilde’s interpretation of Wotan’s thought as her love for Siegfried is expressed as musical feeling in H143 = #134, the World-Inheritance Motif which was introduced in Siegfried Act Three Scene One when Wotan informed Erda that he no longer feared the twilight of the gods (the decline of religious faith) she’d foretold because Wotan hoped the essence of religion, man’s longing for transcendent value, would live on in the love of Siegfried and Brünnhilde, i.e., the inspired, redemptive secular art which the artist-hero Siegfried would, in union with his unconscious mind and muse of inspiration Brünnhilde, create. Brünnhilde’s world-redeeming act (which Wotan presumed would free the world from Alberich’s Ring Curse), on waking to Siegfried’s kiss, was to help Siegfried bring this redemptive work of art, the artwork of the future, the Wagnerian music-drama, the Ring, to birth. Wotan’s expression of this sentiment was, again, accompanied by H143 = #134.

It's no accident that in our passage above Wagner expresses Brünnhilde's remark that to her alone was Wotan's thought [his confession] revealed, the thought she could never name, with Motif H151 = #141, whose first significant conceptual association after it was introduced in S.3.3 was her remark that she is Siegfried's self if he loves her in her bliss, and that what he doesn't know she knows for him. In other words, H151 = #141 in this context is telling us that Wotan's confession to her holds the secret to Siegfried's identity (keeping in mind that he told Fafner in S.2.2 "... I still don't know who I am ... ."), and that, by virtue of being the repository and guardian of Wotan's confession, his unspoken secret, she knows for Siegfried what he doesn't know, his true identity as Wotan reincarnate. It’s also of supreme significance that as Brünnhilde is telling Siegfried that what he doesn’t know, she knows for him, we hear the Fate Motif H87 = #87, since Wotan confessed to Brünnhilde both the gods’ fate, their inevitable doom Erda foresaw, and also his true but hidden identity. Both Feuerbach and Wagner described a man’s fate as his identity.

Kitcher and Schacht remain, throughout their book, oblivious to these and numerous other similarly striking clues to the allegorical meaning of Wagner's Ring. As I've demonstrated in my online version of The Wound That Will Never Heal, Volume One, the Ring's highly developed, sophisticated allegory has nothing whatsoever to do with some vague, generic notion of Siegfried’s heroism and worthiness which Kitcher and Schacht invoke as a poor substitute for serious analysis of the words and music of Brünnhilde’s remark.

One last point about Kitcher’s and Schacht’s sketchy attempt to employ Wagner’s musical motifs in their Ring analysis, in the face of their ignorance of the allegorical role the artist-hero Siegfried plays in the Ring in relation to his prior incarnation as Wotan (religion), and to his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Brünnhilde, is that they express confusion about Wagner’s overall strategy in employing his musical motifs of foreboding and reminiscence to embrace the entire Ring. This is largely because, having demoted Siegfried, they can’t make head or tail of almost the entirety of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, in which Wagner’s use of his musical motifs grows ever more sophisticated and complex. They seem at first to be flummoxed by the well known facts that not only did Wagner’s technical facility in musical composition increase as he worked his way in chronological order from the beginning to the end of the Ring, but that as Wagner’s musical composition progressed towards the climax of Götterdämmerung he accumulated an ever larger repertoire of musical motifs with which to enhance the drama’s meaning through a virtually infinite capacity for subliminal cross-referencing, in view of their preposterous assumption that “… the psychological and philosophical drama was becoming ever more diluted”:

”With the resources of the motifs already introduced, and with an increasing facility in combining, condensing and varying an amazing array of thematic material, his musical language was developing in density and complexity even as the psychological and philosophical drama was becoming ever more diluted. One might have expected the theorist of Opera and Drama to have adjusted the music to the simple requirements of the action and to the replacement of the profoundly thoughtful Wotan with the terminally naive Siegfried. But he quite evidently did not. [P. 195]

“The musical language goes far beyond matching the protagonists’ thoughts and feelings, serving rather to express the background of emotion and idea against which their doings could take on new meaning - and then to transcend them, with an authority higher than any of them have and that only Brünnhilde even approaches.” [P. 196]

The whole point they’re missing is that since, in my allegorical reading, Siegfried is Wotan reborn minus consciousness of his true identity (because Brünnhilde knows for Siegfried what he doesn’t know), and Wagner not only suggested that Siegfried is Wotan reborn, but that one of his musical motifs’ most powerful properties is to recall to Wagner’s audience the prior lives of his protagonists of which the protagonists themselves remain unaware [See 640W - {5/16/56? ML, p. 528-529], and finally, since Cosima told us that Wagner regarded Brünnhilde as a symbol for his own music [See 933W - {8/2/78} CD Vol. II, p. 128], it goes without saying that “the musical language goes far beyond matching the protagonists’ [conscious] thoughts and feelings, serving rather to express the background of emotion and idea against which their doings could take on new meaning - with an authority higher than any of them have and that only Brünnhilde even approaches.”

When Wotan looked inward and confessed his intolerable vision of the irredeemable guilt in our corrupted human history, i.e., man’s Fallen nature, to Brünnhilde, Wotan (Wagner’s image of collective, historical man seeking transcendent value in a world which lacks it) dipped his bleak vision of our Fallen nature and our historical guilt, our irresolvable existential dilemma, in transfiguring music. This was Wagner’s dramatization of his transfiguration of his unbearable doubts about our bid for transcendent meaning through his music, sublimating those doubts into his musical motifs. As I said, Siegfried is the free, innocent, pre-Fallen self Wotan longed to become, shorn of all consciousness of our existential guilt and fear by virtue of Brünnhilde’s (Wagner’s musical motifs’) knowing for Siegfried what he doesn’t know, and keeping it a secret from him, for, as Wotan told Brünnhilde: “What in words I reveal to no one, let it stay unspoken for ever: with myself I commune when I speak with you.”

I’m happy to report that Dr. Kitcher did respond not only to my request that he attempt a reading of the version of my Ring book posted since 2011 at www.wagnerheim.com, but also to my request that he respond to a brief summary of my much longer critique of Finding an Ending (both the longer and the briefer critiques are posted in the discussion forum archive at www.wagnerheim.com), which contains some of the arguments you’ve just read. What follows is his emailed response, in which he acknowledges to some extent the justice of my critique that the Ring interpretation Richard Schacht and he proffered doesn’t do adequate justice to Siegfried:

Private Email from Dr. Philip Kitcher (John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia Univ.) to Paul Heise, dated 7/16/2016:

"Please note: The following remarks express the views of Philip Kitcher; they do not necessarily accord with those of Richard Schacht.

I have some sympathy with Paul Heise’s complaints about the treatment of Siegfried in Finding an Ending (FE). To suppose that Siegfried is a shallow figure, not suited for the rich musical and dramatic world Wagner had created is hardly an ideal interpretation. Yet that judgment is not simply a product of our interpretation of the Ring. It accords with the experiences of thousands of Ring-goers, as well as the directors and dramaturges who wrestle with the problem of how to make Siegfried alive and sympathetic to a contemporary audience. Siegfried simply strikes almost everyone as a brainless cad (to borrow a quaint but lovely term from Wendy Doniger).

Heise strives to solve the problem by offering an allegorical reading. His “solution” quickly descends into obscurity. I am simply baffled by claims that Siegfried is Wotan reborn without knowledge of his identity or that Brünnhilde is his unconscious mind – and I have no clue as to how any rigorous interpreter would find evidence for these assertions. To my mind, Heise reacts to the problem by making things up ad hoc, in much the way Freud’s fiercest critics suppose that he “interpreted” the dreams and remarks of his patients. Better, to my mind, a clear – if suboptimal – response to the problem of Siegfried than the dark pseudo-profundities to which Heise is driven.

In e-mail correspondence, Heise has suggested that all would become clear if I read his book. Perhaps. But I doubt it. In the time I’ve been able to devote to his work on Wagner, the murk only gets denser the more I read. I’m not encouraged to plod on in hopes of enlightenment. Possibly other readers have had better luck.

But the problem of Siegfried is a serious one. It has bothered me since we finished FE, and I’ve tried to work my way to a better dramatic interpretation of the character. Interested readers can find a short account of my solution-in-progress in an essay I wrote for the Opera Book of Opera North’s rightly acclaimed production of the Ring. It’s under the title ‘Making Sense of Siegfried.’ Anyone who would like to read it, and who doesn’t have access to the Opera Book, can obtain a word doc copy, by writing to me at psk16@columbia.edu.”

My response to Dr. Kitcher’s defense of his position and brief critique of my online Ring study is the following. In my critical overview of Finding an Ending in the previous pages of this Epilogue I’ve rebutted Kitcher’s and Schacht’s arguments which promoted their demotion of Siegfried, arguing instead that he’s fully worthy of his status as the greatest of heroes which his lover and muse Brünnhilde grants him in her final words. But in his private email to me reproduced above Dr. Kitcher adds that their unsympathetic attitude towards Siegfried, which considers him unworthy of the musico-dramatic context of the entire Ring of which he's a part, is shared by “… thousands of Ring-goers, as well as the directors and dramaturges who wrestle with the problem of how to make Siegfried alive and sympathetic to a contemporary audience.” It would be interesting to poll a representative sample of fans of Wagner’s Ring, and of Wagner’s music-drama Siegfried in particular, on this question, but the result, whatever it is, wouldn’t alter the fact that I’ve never doubted Siegfried’s status as the greatest of heroes, assigned to him by Brünnhilde (and therefore by Wagner in his final word on the meaning of his Ring and of Siegfried in particular). My allegorical interpretation makes sense of Siegfried’s brashness, naiveté, ignorance, fearlessness (i.e., his ability and freedom to perform the redemptive act Wotan can’t perform, killing Fafner to gain possession of Alberich’s Ring and thereby temporarily neutralizing the power of Alberich’s Ring Curse), and even of Siegfried’s brutal yet unwitting betrayal of his muse Brünnhilde. Those questionable aspects of Siegfried’s character to which Kitcher and Schacht point as grounds for their assumption that Wagner intended his audience to deplore rather than admire Siegfried, as well as the few admirable traits Kitcher and Schacht grant Siegfried, are, in my interpretation, justified musico-dramatically by recognizing Siegfried as Wagner’s artist-hero, even in his betrayal of Brünnhilde, his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration.

Kitcher then offers his own brief critique of my online Ring study, complaining of my allegorical reading’s “obscurity,” and confessing “I am simply baffled by claims that Siegfried is Wotan reborn without knowledge of his identity or that Brünnhilde is his unconscious mind - and I have no clue as to how any rigorous interpreter would find evidence for these assertions. To my mind, Heise reacts to the problem by making things up ad hoc … .” You'd surmise, would you not, that Dr. Kitcher would have attempted a thorough reading of my online Ring study prior to concluding that he can’t make any sense of several of my primary insights, and that he can’t imagine how I could sustain them from the documentary evidence and through logical development of my ideas? You would be wrong: “Heise has suggested that all would become clear if I read his book. Perhaps. But I doubt it. In the time I’ve been able to devote to his work on Wagner, the murk only gets denser the more I read. I’m not encouraged to plod on in hopes of enlightenment. Possibly other readers have had better luck.”

They have. Not only have several members of my discussion forum at www.wagnerheim.com read my entire (admittedly lengthy and difficult) online Ring study, and expressed their considerable appreciation, often-times affirming that much in the Ring had remained obscure for them until my study had granted them insight, but eminent Wagner scholar Barry Millington attempted a complete reading, his mostly appreciative response to which I paraphrased in my Prologue. His one page review can be found currently on page 3 of the discussion forum archive at www.wagnerheim.com posted on 1/25/2017. However, it’s of the greatest import that Scruton read it in 2010, and was sufficiently impressed by it that he sponsored my website www.wagnerheim.com so my allegorical Ring interpretation could be made available, for free, to the widest possible public. Furthermore, he’s placed in the public domain three distinct critical reviews of it, much of which I reproduce and respond to below.

Had Dr. Kitcher troubled himself to at least attempt a thorough reading of my online Ring study that others have willingly undertaken, often to their benefit, he’d have understood that I in no way invent any of my allegorical readings of the Ring’s protagonists and dramatic incidents ad hoc, but draw them instead from an exceptionally close and consistent reading of the primary documentary evidence in the Ring’s libretto and its web of associated musical motifs, and also from a thorough assessment of secondary documentary evidence drawn from Wagner’s relevant writings and recorded remarks, as well as from the writings of Wagner’s mentor Ludwig Feuerbach which demonstrably influenced Wagner. Furthermore, I develop my allegorical readings in a gradual and careful way, from simple to complex, vetting each element of my allegorical reading of protagonists and dramatic incidents step by step based on the documentary evidence. This is self-evident to anyone who penetrates beyond my Prologue into my presentation of the main arguments of my interpretation.
Post Reply