Monday, August 14, 2006

Dorst's counterpoint?

Terry responds.

First of all, I am going to have to object to using the Konzept productions of either Chéreau or Kupfer to illustrate a point. As Terry does:

I believe this is true. Chereau's Ring, gloriously sung as it was, is a prime example of this. In the end, you can't get over the fact that Siegfried is wearing a tux in the second act, or that Hagen looks like a used car salesman.

On one hand, it was not (sorry to say) "gloriously sung." None of the principals, save maybe Sir Donald McIntyre, was first-rate. Some, like Manfred Jung in the rather-important role of Siegfried (ha!), were downright execrable. On the other, a Konzept staging might be interesting insofar as drama goes, but it (unless it is Wagner's own Konzept) is not the original intent of the composer. Often, it is far enough from his own idea of things to be called "perverse." Anyway, enough with the shrimp, let's get to the steak.

However, the reason the drama can sweep us along (and remain open to so many interpretations), is because of the universality of the archetypes. An archetype reflects the varying "shades" of humanity (both cross culturally and cross temporally), and because of its trancendant nature, is reveals very different things to different people. Dorst, for his mistakes, admits this in appeal to the collective unconscious idea. Archetypes and myth are merely an extension of the unconscious, eternally trying give meaning to the cosmic questions of humanity (an idea both Jung and Campbell asserted). The drama isn't happening just out of visibility, but is happening to us collectively. The story of the Ring, as you pointed out, inevitably, is the story of humanity in general. This was the point Jung [the psychologist Carl, not the tenor Manfred - pjs], Campbell, and to some extent Dorst, were trying to make. In the end, we can't "just" leave it to myth and archetype, because in the end, what they inevitably refer to us.

Great. Wonderful, even. I am sure Professor Lévi-Strauss would be happy to agree. However, I think Terry misses his own point here. The archetype, as Terry notes, is so recognizable and so universal that it - as I said elsewhere - doesn't need reference.

(The point with archetypes is that they don't need a frame-of-reference. The characters are so universal and recognizable that they are entities sui generis. )

Because archetypes work as they do, we can indeed "'just' leave it to myth and archetype, because in the end, what they inevitably refer to us." [italics mine - pjs] I think Terry makes that point himself, he just misses the conclusion." Then he notes,

And thus, I agree with you that the drama of the Ring redeems us, but so does our participation. For Campbell, myth is an extension of our desire to understand our own nature. These archetypes and myths teach us a lesson through their actions, and at the same time, renew society. They are necessary because of this action. Wagner (textually) may have rejected the Eternal Return, but among the "mash" of his ideas, there were his own beliefs [concerning] Greek theatre and myth. Wagner didn't write for the passive observer, but the active participant. It is through this participation (thinking, contemplating, and certainly committment) that we redeem ourselves, even as the drama redeems us. I think the Bayreuth theatre stands, not only as a testament to Wagner's complete and utter drive (to put it nicely), but to this fact as well.

OK. However, the redemption is not a human redemption. Brünnhilde's death, and the twilight of the gods, is necessary. Not for humanity, but for the world. The prelude to Götterdämmerung is of supreme importance here. History under the gods, because of their sins, must come to an end. After the destruction of Valhalla and the gods, there is a fresh start for humanity. This drama, because it is so archetypal, happens above and beyond humanity.

If we take Wagner's mythology at face value, which is an issue for another post, then we have to admit that this cosmic drama happened to renew the world. Not humanity, though it serves as a warning to those who come after. The gods' sin and rapaciousness corrupted the world and required a cleansing end to history, so poignantly expressed by the Norns, and the drama including and proceding from Das Rheingold has the teleological purpose of bringing about that purification.

Humans come in after the action. Wagner doesn't deal with human redemption (in such a world-historical way) until Parsifal. The archetypes serve as a warning, but the drama of the Ring necessarily happens beyond humanity because the text -Wagner's own Konzept - happens beyond humanity.


At 9:31 AM, Blogger Terry said...

"This drama, because it is so archetypal, happens above and beyond humanity."

The archetypes can't exist without humanity, however. The redemption of the archetypes must, by extension, redeem us as well. A myth doesn't happen in a vacuum. Of course, I'm thinking more of ancient story-telling here, not unlike the Greek dramas I mentioned. Archetypical redemption is the basis (in the collective sense) of human catharsis.

Otherwise, I tend to agree. To much time on the human/archetype dialectic can cloud the mind.

At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

simply stopping by to say hello


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