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

Notre Dame de Paris

Le Figaro 17/04/2019 Sometimes I stay on the Isle de la cité, in an apartment borrowed from a friend. From the kitchen window I look out across rooftops to the solemn...

After my own dark night

The Telegraph 20 April 2019 Fully to understand the Easter story it helps to be hounded by the mob, to know that nothing that you say or do can deflect...

An Apology for thinking - 11 April 19 - The Spectator

The Spectator, 11 April 2019 I recently gave an interview to the New Statesman, on the assumption that, as the magazine’s former wine critic I would be treated with respect, and...

Roger Scruton on why conservatism is better for the environment, FT - March 19

 An interview with Jane Owen in advance of the FT Oxford Literary Festival, the full article can be read online here.  https://www.ft.com/content/43e6ef1e-464b-11e9-a965-23d669740bfb  

Recent Books

Souls in the Twilight

Beaufort Books  (October 2018) As the lights that have guided us go out, people begin to wander in the twilight, seeking their place of belonging. In these stories, set in...

Music as an Art

Bloomsbury  (August 2018) Music as an Art begins by examining music through a philosophical lens, engaging in discussions about tonality, music and the moral life, music and cognitive science and German...

Where We Are: The State of Britain Now

Where We Are: The State of Britain Now

Bloomsbury (November 2017) Addressing one of the most politically turbulent periods in modern British history, philosopher Roger Scruton asks how, in these circumstances, we can come to define our identity,...

2019 Events

Wed 31st Jul - Fri 9th Aug - 2019 Scrutopia Summer School

Thur 29th Aug - Sun 1st Sept - Scrutopia Alumni Meeting 

Fri 26 - Sat 27th April - CRASSH conference, Cambridge

Sat 15th June - Philosophy Day

Thurs 19th Sept - ISI Gala for Western Civilization, Philadelphia

Tues 14th May - National Planning Summit, London