Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde

roger-scruton-death-devoted-heartOUP (2004)

A tale of forbidden love and inevitable death, the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde recounts the story of two lovers unknowingly drinking a magic potion and ultimately dying in one another's arms.

Critics have lauded Wagner's Tristan und Isolde for the originality and subtlety of the music, but have often viewed the drama as a "mere trifle," about Wagner's own forbidden affair with Matilde Wesendonk, the wife of a banker who supported him during his exile in Switzerland. In Death-Devoted Heart Scruton aims to vindicate the stature of the drama, presenting it as more than just a sublimation of the composer's love for Wesendonck or a wistful romantic dream. Scruton argues that Tristan und Isolde has profound religious meaning, as relevant today as it was to Wagner's contemporaries. Both philosophical and musicological, Scruton's analysis touches on the nature of tragedy, the significance of ritual sacrifice, and the meaning of redemption. Scruton provides a guide to the drama while offering insight into the nature of erotic love and the peculiar place of the erotic in our culture.

"Death-Devoted Heart is a book on music, tragedy, love, sacrifice and redemption. It is partly a brilliant critical/theoretical study, partly a manifesto for a new religion. It's a rare case of a philosopher really telling you what it's all about." - Tom Lubbock, The Guardian Review

246 pages, 978-0-19-516691-0 | Hardback

Buy from Amazon

Latest Articles

Fight or flight: Strategies for traditional Conservatives - The Economist Mar 17

Does conservatism aim to uphold or to transform society? Across the West, the political right is split. Some conservatives back a status quo of globalised economies and live-and-let-live societies. Others...

Populism, VII: Representation & the people. The New Criterion Mar 17

Looking back over the events of 2016, liberal-minded commentators are apt to sound a warning against “populism,” a disorder that they observe everywhere on the right of the political spectrum....

The Russian way of lying. Spectator Life Mar 17

Perhaps the most famous paradox discovered by the Greek philosophers is that of ‘the liar’. A Cretan says that all Cretans are liars: if what he says is true, then...

Podcast with John J Miller - On Human Nature

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, John J Miller,  Roger explains how his short volume differs from Edward O. Wilson’s influential book of the same name, whether human nature...

Recent Books

The Ring of Truth

The Ring of Truth

Penguin Books (June 2016) Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung is one of the greatest works of art created in modern times, and has fascinated both critics and devotees for...

Confessions of a Heretic

Confessions of a Heretic

Notting Hill Editions (March 2016) Twelve hard-hitting essays arising from a decade of engagement with the public culture of Britain and America that touch on matters of concern to all...

On Human Nature

On Human Nature

Princeton University Press (February 2017) In this short book, acclaimed writer and philosopher Roger Scruton presents an original and radical defense of human uniqueness. Confronting the views of evolutionary psychologists,...

2017 Events

30 March - Buckingham Philosophy Group with Simon Blackburn

3 April - 'The Achievements of Roger Scruton' James Madison Programme, Princeton University

4 April - US publication of Confessions of a Heretic

5 April - Collegium Insitution Luncheon Seminar at the University of Pennsylvania

6 April - 'Virtue & The Arts- The Wheatley Institute, Utah

3 May - Buckingham Philosophy Group with Sebastian Gardner

17 May - 'Literature Matters' Bloomsbury Institute panel discussion

18 May - Buckingham Philosophy Group with Anthony O'Hear

22-28 May - Paris

1-3 June - Brain Bar Festival, Budapest

8 June - Buckingham Philosophy Group with Robert Grant

6 July - Graduation Talk, Kings School, Chester

30 July - 8 Aug - Scrutopia Summer School

18 Apr - 'Crisis of Liberty in the West' The Legatum Institute

19 Apr - 'Freedom of Speech' The Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor

26 Apr - 'The Idea of a University- The Richmond Lectures at Bristol University

Copyright © Roger Scruton. All Rights Reserved.

Website by Mindvision