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The Total Work of Art

The Total Work of Art

David Imhoof | Margaret Eleanor Menninger


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For two centuries, Gesamtkunstwerk—the ideal of the “total work of art”—has exerted a powerful influence over artistic discourse and practice, spurring new forms of collaboration and provoking debates over the political instrumentalization of art. Despite its popular conflation with the work of Richard Wagner, Gesamtkunstwerk’s lineage and legacies extend well beyond German Romanticism, as this wide-ranging collection demonstrates. In eleven compact chapters, scholars from a variety of disciplines trace the idea’s evolution in German-speaking Europe, from its foundations in the early nineteenth century to its manifold articulations and reimaginings in the twentieth century and beyond, providing an uncommonly broad perspective on a distinctly modern cultural form.

David Imhoof is Associate Professor of History at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. His book, Becoming a Nazi Town: Culture and Politics in Göttingen between the World Wars, appeared with University of Michigan Press in 2013. He has published on sports, film, and sharpshooting in interwar Germany and is co-editing a forthcoming edition of Colloquia Germanica on sound studies. He directs the Music and Sound Studies Network for the German Studies Association.

Margaret Eleanor Menninger is NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Humanities and Associate Professor of History at Texas State University. She has published articles on the history of cultural philanthropy in both the United States and Germany, and was a contributor to The Cambridge Wagner Encyclopedia. She is completing a book entitled A Serious Matter and True Joy: Philanthropy, the Arts, and the State in Nineteenth-Century Leipzig.

“Contributors are deft in negotiating and teasing out how aspects of the Gesamtkunstwerk shaped the German cultural landscape and at the same time mirrored the changing nature of politics and consumerism. This collection will prove to be an invaluable resource for historians interested in all aspects of German culture.” · Choice

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
The Total Work of Art i
Contents vii
Foreword x
Acknowledgments xiv
Introduction 1
Part I – Foundations 19
Chapter 1 – The Play's the Thing 21
Chapter 2 – From Gesamtkuntstwerk to Music Drama 39
Chapter 3 – Richard Wagner, Parsifal, and the Pursuit of Gesamtkunstwerk 56
Part II – Articulations 79
Chapter 4 – Epic Gesamtkunstwerk 81
Chapter 5 – Gesamtkunstwerk, Gesaltung, and the Bauhaus Stage 95
Chapter 6 – Exposing the Political Gesamtkunstwerk 115
Chapter 7 – Reconciling the \"Three Graceful Hellenic Sisters 133
Part III – Inspirations 155
Chapter 8 – The \"Translucent (Not: Transparent)\" Gesamtglaswerk 157
Chapter 9 – Quiet Audience, Roaring Crowd 183
Chapter 10 – The Will to Heal 206
Chapter 11 – Consuming Voices 228
Afterword: Gesamtkunstwerk as Epistemic Space 249
Select Bibliography 259
Index 273