Kirsten Paige (Music) historicizes the discursive concept of climate in her dissertation “Richard Wagner’s Political Ecology.” Paige explores how Richard Wagner’s understanding of “climate” — as opposed to nature — shaped both his aesthetic theories and operatic depictions of nature. Wagner wrote extensively on both climate and nature: his 1850 essay “Art and Climate” differentiates between the two concepts on theoretical grounds and, in an 1879 essay on animal vivisection, he considers how a “climatic artwork” could be transformative, converting the theater into a restorative space. Wagner saw this climatic artwork as revolutionizing the German body politic while also renegotiating Germans’ relationship with the natural world. Along with his contemporaries, Wagner was keenly aware of the impact of industrialism and capitalism on Germany’s climate and deployed his “eco-aesthetic” as a restorative solution to the earliest signs of the Anthropocene, the age marked by the devastating impact of humans on nature.
Kirsten Paige is the 2016-17 Albert Lepawsky Memorial Fellow.