Wagner redux: Badiou on music for the future

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Alain Badiou's book Five lessons on Wagner contests and revises the widespread critical reception of Richard Wagner. Badiou offers a counterpoint to 6 charges made against the composer: (1) Wagner created seductively sensual musical edifices; (2) Wagner indulges identitarian thought; (3) Wagner spectacularizes suffering; (4) Wagner's musical forms contain differences in a false unity; (5) Wagner theatricalizes the drama; and (6) Wagner's temporalities are underwritten by the latent telos of affirmative dialectics. Badiou argues against these charges point by point. Badiou then shifts attention away from plot structures and toward the music's formal protocols. For Badiou, musicalized transitions proffer vectors for transformation beyond the conceptual scope of plot meanings alone. The paper describes and evaluates Badiou's claims. Using Die Meistersinger as a central referent, the paper argues that Badiou unwittingly construes music as a signifying medium at argumentatively crucial junctures, which permits an equivocal case of Wagner to persist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-485
Number of pages25
JournalContemporary Music Review
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012


  • Adorno
  • Badiou
  • Die Meistersinger
  • Form
  • Lacoue-Labarthe
  • Politics
  • Time
  • Wagner

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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