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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01mp48sg68p
Title: Under the Spell of Wagner: The Revue Wagnérienne and Literary Experimentation in the Belle Epoque (1878-1893)
Authors: Heck, Adeline Anastasia
Advisors: Trezise, Thomas
Contributors: French and Italian Department
Keywords: 19th Century
Avant-garde
Belle Epoque
Symbolism
Wagnerism
Subjects: French literature
Music history
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines the role played by the discovery of Richard Wagner's music on avant-garde French writers between 1860 and 1890. More specifically, it focuses on the case study of the Revue wagnérienne (1885-1888) and the works of fiction published by its main contributors. My thesis argues that Wagnerian aesthetics were instrumental in helping late nineteenth-century French writers distance themselves from traditional literature, leading them to innovate with free verse and interior monologue, as well as establishing the foundations for Symbolist theater. Setting key articles from the Revue wagnérienne in dialogue with novels, prose poems and plays penned by its contributors, I posit that the Revue and the prose narratives authored by its participants furnished the belle époque with characteristic aesthetic ideals such as artistic synthesis, poetic musicality and the pursuit of interiority, thus opening the gates to literary modernity in France. While the connection between Wagner and Symbolism appears to be well-trodden ground, this dissertation forges a path away from existing scholarship, which typically centers either on literary concerns or on music history without merging the two. By contrast, this interdisciplinary study brings together contemporary musicology, literary criticism and archival research, always attempting to tease out connections between concrete listening experiences in the concert hall and the works of fiction that were published in their aftermath. This thesis also includes rare documents and unpublished manuscripts which help complete the picture of their author's personal connection towards Wagner and have never been discussed in existing studies of French Wagnerism. Through close textual analysis, I draw out previously undiscovered connections between Wagnerian theoretical texts, Wagnerian music drama and Symbolist literature. The dissertation's most significant contribution to scholarship is that it devotes sustained attention to writers who used to wield intellectual prestige over their contemporaries but have since been neglected. This choice is reflected in a corpus that blends famous and unknown names, from Catulle Mendès and Villiers de l'Isle-Adam—two Wagnerites who met Wagner personally in 1869—and the younger Édouard Dujardin and Teodor de Wyzewa, both of whom transformed the Revue into a laboratory of ideas. All of them wrestled with the ideal of artistic totality—Wagner's famed concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk—with varying results. For Wagner's aesthetics relied not just on the notion of a perfect synthesis between the arts but also on the desire to encapsulate the world in its entirety, a goal he pursued both by including an incredible amount of detail in his writings and by creating dramatic works of extraordinary scale. My contention is that the Symbolists were sensitive to the absurdity inherent to Wagner's elusive creative pursuit and subsequently crafted experimental narratives featuring anti-heroes incapable of sexual or artistic fulfillment. In doing so, they relieved creators of the extreme creative agency exemplified by Wagner and proposed an alternative model in which the reader's active engagement with the text is required. This lesson was to be remembered by Modernist writers such as James Joyce, Valery Larbaud and T.S. Eliot.
URI: http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01mp48sg68p
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog: catalog.princeton.edu
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:French and Italian

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