Your various articles on Wagner and his works convince me that you have a defective understanding of Wagner's music dramas, the intentions that lie behind them and the intellectual context in which they were written. While it's true that works of art take on a life of their own once the artist has delivered them into the world, this does not mean that the art-work can be or should be detached from the ordinary and intellectual life of the artist who created them. I reject the romantic [sic] view that the artist is merely the channel of some sort of divine inspiration. Wagner's works are his works, and those works are inseparable from Wagner the ordinary man and cannot be properly understood without placing them within the context of his ordinary and intellectual life at the time of the works' creation.The above idea concerning the output of creative artists is neither novel nor atypical and is, in fact, a bedrock assumption of perhaps the majority of arts criticism, both today and in the past. While we have no argument with that assumption when concerned with the output of creative artists of ordinary gift (which ordinary gift can indeed be substantial), we take strong exception to it when the output concerned is the product of a creative artist of transcendent gift such as Richard Wagner. As the great T.S. Eliot put it: "[T]he more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates." In our not-so-humble opinion, the kind of thinking that proclaims that even in the case of a transcendent creative genius such as Wagner the created artworks cannot be separated from the ordinary man and can be understood properly only in the context of the ordinary and intellectual life of their creator serves only to lead one ineluctably into all sorts of false byways and into drawing false if authoritative-sounding conclusions concerning those artworks. Ultimately, such thinking results in producing what are essentially irrelevant intellectual maunderings regarding the artworks themselves, clever as those maunderings may be. As we've asserted here on S&F more than once, all Wagner's music-dramas are entirely self-contained works and require no scholarly biographical commentary of any sort whatsoever for one to comprehend them fully. Where genuine works of art are concerned, the facts of the ordinary and intellectual life of their creator, if he be a creator of transcendent genius, count directly for nothing in the artworks the aesthetic and affective core of each of which is always the product of mostly unconscious transformative processes which processes are as much a mystery to the creator as they are to us. Nor can those transformative processes be "reverse engineered" after the fact to better understand them and the works of art they produced — not even by the creator himself, much less ordinary folk such as us, no matter how deep or probing the scholarship or how convinced one may be that the results of such scholarship lead to a deeper understanding of the artworks in question. Such a conviction can be nothing more or other than a self-serving justification of the research time and labor expended. Which is not to say that such scholarship has no worth or value in itself. It most surely can be both worthwhile and valuable. It simply has no worth or value in gaining a deeper understanding of the artworks themselves in the case of artworks which are the product of transcendent creative genius. We might add, if somewhat ungenerously, that the products of such scholarly researches in the case of Wagner's music-dramas are too often used by writers, especially if they're critics or academics, to make their discourse on the music-dramas seem wonderfully erudite and objectively verifiable, that last a great (if false) comfort to both the writer and his readers. While we can sympathize with that feeling of comfort, that comfort is always misplaced. As with all genuine works of art, not only ones produced by creators of transcendent genius, once one goes beyond questions of craft and process there's no objectively verifiable anything except, perhaps, place and date of creation. One might even say that's a hallmark and necessary condition of all genuine works of art and a principal source of their affective power and resonant nature.
How can you say that Wagner's sources count for nothing, and that they're his business and not ours? Without those sources there would be no Ring as The Ring is just Wagner's retelling of what's written in those sources which he then set to music.This is so common a misconception that we really ought to address it in some detail in a separate entry. We might do just that in future, but for now we'll simply remark that it's always well to remember that the epic myth/saga that's Wagner's Ring is no "retelling" of anything as it's nowhere to be found in the ancient sources that Wagner consulted in creating the tetralogy, nor anywhere else for that matter. That epic is almost wholly Wagner's original creation. What he did was consult those ancient sources both for inspiration and general tone, and mine them for incident useful to his concept (you should pardon the expression) which incident he then distilled, transformed, and recombined to suit his purpose. That's why we asserted that "[Wagner's] original sources count for nothing in the Ring after the fact [emphasis added] and Wagner's music and text everything," for after the fact of Wagner's work on the Ring, the myth/saga created was entirely Wagner's own — story, plot, and characters — and bears relation to Wagner's sources vis-à-vis certain characters and incident only in the most diffuse of outlines and in the most general way. That's true of all Wagner's music-dramas, actually, and precisely why "in the matter of understanding any of Wagner's music-dramas, his original sources are his business exclusively and none of ours (plural ours)."
I seem to have written more than three thousand words without a single kind one for How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One. To remedy this, at least partially, let it be noted that, at 165 pages, index and acknowledgments and biographical note on the author included, it is a short book.RTWT here.
In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the "greatest living writer of English prose", was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: "I don't think so." Of Austen he said he "couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world". He felt that women writers were "quite different". He said: "I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me."Yes, well, perhaps that's all true (although we wouldn't bet on it), but we can't help thinking back to what, for the longest time, we, too, were absolutely convinced of; viz., that no female, no matter how technically adept she might be, could ever play the fiddle with the command and fire and depth of emotion of a male, and that we could tell within twenty measures or so whether the fiddle was being played by a female or not. Then one day, some thirty or so years ago, we switched on the radio about ten measures into the Beethoven Violin Concerto and of course stopped what we were doing to listen (one never passes up a chance to hear the Beethoven). The performance was riveting. We couldn't place the fiddler as this fiddler, whoever he was (there was no question the fiddler was a male), sounded like no fiddler we'd ever heard before. We mentally flipped through every fiddler known to us and could come up with no match. Then came the announcer. The orchestra was the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan, and the fiddler was someone named Anne-Sophie Mutter. She was 16 years old. And that was that.