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Modernism and the Total Work of Art

ARHA 339
Spring 2016
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: GRST 239, GELT 239, FRST 339, COL 349, MUSC 285
Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory

The term "total work of art" refers to the German Gesamtkunstwerk, which took on new urgency in the 19th century amid social upheaval and revolution. Understood as the intention to reunite the arts into one integrated work, the Gesamtkunstwerk was tied from the beginning to the desire to recover and renew the public function of art. True to its origins in revolution, the modern idea of the total work of art intends a critique of existing society and anticipates a utopian alternative. This course examines modern formulations of totality as a response to a cultural crisis initiated by the 1789 French Revolution. From there, we turn to an analysis of composer Richard Wagner's ideas and compositions, which made the idea of the synthesis of the arts a central focus for European modernism. Yet if Wagner's works and writings provide the dominant reference for subsequent developments from the 1880s onwards, these appear primarily in the form of a search for alternatives to his own theory and practice. Attempts to unite the arts and the arts with life continued until the 1930s, when artists' utopian dreams of the total work found perverted realization in the propaganda machines put in place by totalitarian governments.

This course examines the origins of the Gesamtkunstwerk in French Revolutionary festivals and German idealism before shifting to a focus on Wagner and the total work of art. It will then examine attempts to envision totality after Wagner in Impressionist painting and German expressionism before concluding with a look at Nazi festivals and art exhibitions.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ART
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ARHA-MN)(ARHA)(ARST)(COL)(FRST-MN)(FRST)(GRST-MN)(GRST)(RMST)
Past Enrollment Probability: 75% - 89%

Last Updated on JUN-13-2024
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