Yet scholarship, like everything else in human experience, is communal, and develops complexity and richness through interaction and mutual contribution. But it is unavoidably the case that it is impossible to comment on anything at all except from a particular, and potentially universalisable, position. Too great an emphasis on historicisation is as grave an error as too little. The belief here is that reading the thoughts of others will somehow cloud and impoverish the originality of the individual. What follows, he insists, is that it is always a mistake for a critic to read much into the erotics at all. I think that every woman just once in their life would like to have that kind of passion and emotion and experience that kind of love that you hear in the music. But, again, simply refusing to acknowledge a fact of recent history does not make it go away.
The recent French ban on the hijab, for instance, is more complex than a liberal attempt to oppose the exclusion of women from the public space on the usual [start of p. At her pleading Wotan agrees to surround her with a ring of fire, so that at least her rapist will be a hunk, but in kissing away her divinity and his ownership of her, he establishes her in the sphere of patriarchal exchange. A justifiable response might be to ask why, if he will pay no attention to other scholars, anyone else should pay any attention to him. But, again, simply refusing to acknowledge a fact of recent history does not make it go away. Her sex made her a commodity but it was through a particularly Wagnerian form of erotic love that she saw how the fantasy of the erotic relation as conceived by modernity — and with it the economic structure which it both guarantees and is constituted by — could be destroyed forever. But it is unavoidably the case that it is impossible to comment on anything at all except from a particular, and potentially universalisable, position. It is a bold decision to circumvent a century of scholarly work, and one that opens Dreyfus up to stringent criticism. Susan Spitzer London and New York, I shall therefore spend some time elaborating an argument that Dreyfus could have made, and which would have taken his study in quite different directions. It still seems necessary to make the obvious point that women are not poultry but of equal human stature to men. It is not the case, as Dreyfus would like us to accept, that pornography is subject to the whims of the market whereas erotic appeal — some assumed universal response [start of p. But it is nevertheless a universalisation of a particular historically contingent world-view. Operas, like all works of art, express different use values to different societies at different times. After summarising the arguments he makes having cleared away recent scholarship, I shall proceed at the end of this review in a different but in some sense a related spirit. The implication here is that there is something trivially latterday about this scholarly obsession, but this is not as persuasive a sequence of dates as it might seem. Yet a conception of love that is universal and not particular, and which even if it finds sexual expression can nevertheless appear to relate closely to friendship, is perfectly consistent. What we should do, I suppose, is just enjoy them. Although many of the issues raised here are familiar, particularly in chapter 4 some are treated in much greater detail than usual. This, after all, is what gives Wagner his special attraction or danger, depending on point of view: What follows, he insists, is that it is always a mistake for a critic to read much into the erotics at all. The full programme, which was broadcast in May , can be heard online at http: Second, we [start of p. In a world that lacked commitment to the idea of sexuality as identity rather than behaviour, this would be considered an interest rather than a fetish a sexual focus on an ordinarily non-sexual object , but that world has gone. Ben Fowkes, i London, ; repr. When, centuries ago, a king handed his daughter to a foreign king in order to end a war, the purpose of the exchange appears quite obvious, but the exchange relation lurks unremarked under many other and more modern cultural treatments of women. Sometimes, of course, but not often, composers, librettists and directors say something more subversive about the place of women; occasionally, as with Wagner, the presentation is ambiguous. This spear is a phallic symbol that he took away from the magician whose potency it guarantees, at the same time causing the external phallic symbol of that potency — the magic castle — to fall flaccid to the ground.
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