VAST 226

Darwin, Richard Wagner, and the Uses and Abuses of Nineteenth-Century Science

Instructor: Anthony Cummings

Office: 201 Williams Center

Office Phone: (610) 330-5823


Course Description: One-hundred-fifty years ago, Charles Darwin published his revolutionary treatise on the origin of species and Richard Wagner composed his revolutionary opera Tristan und Isolde. This course examines nineteenth-century [mis]applications of Darwinian theories, as reflected in Wagner's operas, which are replete with subliminal references to the superiority of Germanic peoples and the implied inferiority of non-Germanic peoples. We shall: read Darwin and texts reflecting his influence in Germany; view the Wagner operas; and conclude by considering Wagner's influence on Adolf Hitler.