English 170

Literature and the Arts: Opera and Literary Form

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2016 Duncan, Ian
TTh 3:30-5 250 Dwinelle

Book List

Nietzsche, Friedrich: The Birth of Tragedy / The Wagner Case; Pushkin, Alexander: Eugene Onegin, trans. Falen; Scott, Walter: The Bride of Lammermoor; Shakespeare, William: Henry IV, Part One; Shakespeare, William: The Merry Wives of Windsor; Virgil: The Aeneid, trans. Fitzgerald; Wedekind , Franz: Earth Spirit + Pandora's Box

Other Readings and Media

Course reader: essays & excerpts from Hoffman, Kierkegaard, B. Williams, S. Zizek, et al.; recommended recordings and DVDs of operas tba.


Together with the novel, opera became one of the characteristic European art forms of the long nineteenth century. Attending to the hybrid status of opera as a dramatic as well as a musical form, the course will focus on a series of major musical-dramatic works produced across the period 1787-1935 in relation to the literary genres they invoke (epic, lyric, comedy, tragedy, novel, film); to philosophical debates they generated; and/or to major models, sources, and subsequent adaptations. We will attend to questions of translation not only across languages (especially vexed in the case of Eugene Onegin) but across genres and media. (Pushkin's Onegin is a "novel in verse"; Tchaikovsky's, "Lyric scenes in three acts" ...) If there's an overarching theme or topic across our readings, it's opera's staging of the relations between eros and empire -- contending fantasies of absolute liberty, jouissance, and power -- in the era of bourgeois ascendancy: from (to cite tutelary demons, masculine / feminine, of imperial decline and fall) Don Giovanni to Lulu ...

We will be paying serious attention to the music; however, prior technical knowledge or musicological training is not a prerequisite -- although it will be very welcome!

Recommended recordings / DVDs of operas to be assigned.

Works include:

W.A. Mozart / L. Da Ponte, Don Giovanni + E.T.A. Hoffmann, “Don Juan”; S. Kierkegaard, Either/Or (“The Immediate Stages of the Erotic”)

G. Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor + W. Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor (ed. Robertson, Oxford World's Classics)

H. Berlioz, Les Troyens + Virgil, The Aeneid (Books I – IV) (trans. R. Fitzgerald)

P.I. Tchaikovsky and A.S. Pushkin (and V. Nabokov), Eugene Onegin (trans. V. Nabokov / J. Falen)

R. Wagner, Tristan und Isolde OR Die Walküre + F. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (and other philosophical writings)

G. Verdi / A. Boito, Falstaff + W. Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1 Henry IV

A. Berg, Lulu + F. Wedekind, Earth Spirit / Pandora’s Box + G.W. Pabst, Pandora’s Box (1929 film)

In addition the class will attend the San Francisco Opera’s fall production of L. Janáček’s The Makropoulos Case


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