Krisztina Lajosi | Wagner and the (Re)mediation of Art: Gesamtkunstwerk and Nineteenth-Century Theories of Media


In the works of many nineteenthcentury European writers and artists there is an increased awareness of the form and medium of the artistic expression which is seen not simply as a convention or as the outer shell of the artwork, but as its guiding tenet. This article focuses on the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk as conceived in Wagner’s theoretical writings and in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and it aims to discuss the term in the context of nineteenth-century theories of media and aesthetic thinking. Richard Wagner revisited and re-envisioned the theories of theatre and musical drama of his Romantic precursors and invested the notion of Gesamtkunstwerk with a new meaning. He extended its range of function and relevance far beyond aesthetics, claiming along the lines of the Schillerian tradition that an ideal artwork is the product of an ideal community, and likewise, an ideal community can be shaped by its participation in the production of the ideal artwork. According to Wagner the musical theatre was the perfect medium for producing the total and ideal work of art, hence also for shaping the ideal community.

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