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The Total Work of Art in European Modernism$
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David Roberts

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450235

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450235.001.0001

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Prophets and Precursors: Paris 1830–1848

Prophets and Precursors: Paris 1830–1848

(p.54) 3 Prophets and Precursors: Paris 1830–1848
The Total Work of Art in European Modernism

David Roberts

Cornell University Press

This chapter explores the recreation of the union of art, religion, and politics in Athenian tragedy in music drama, just as the modern synthesis of the arts, in which the orchestra takes the place of the Greek chorus, is intended to give life and body to the vision of social synthesis. It analyzes the works of Saint-Simon, Mazzini, Balzac, Berlioz, and Wagner. It argues that the centrality of Wagner to the history and the idea of the total work of art is twofold: his theory of the Gesamtkunstwerk forms the central directing inspiration of his music dramas; his manifestos Art and Revolution (1849) and The Artwork of the Future (1849) fuse in the heat of revolutionary fervor the various anticipations since the French Revolution of the artwork to come into a powerful vision of the regeneration of man, society, and art. Beyond that, however, Wagner’s aesthetic conception of politics complements Rousseau’s political conception of art.

Keywords:   Saint-Simon, Guiseppe Mazzini, Honoré de Balzac, Hector Berlioz, Richard Wagner, religion, art, politics, Athenian tragedy, music drama

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