Wagner and Philosophy

Course details

From £205.00
10 CATS points

23 Apr 2019 - 25 Jun 2019
Day of week

Wagner and Philosophy


Richard Wagner has long been considered one of the most obviously philosophical of the great artists in the European tradition. This recognizes both the way in which his work was strongly influenced by the philosophies of Schopenhauer and the young Hegelians and the extent to which it has in turn stimulated significant philosophical responses.

This course will examine the philosophical aspects of Richard Wagner’s main music dramas, from 'The Ring of the Nibelung' to 'Parsifal' and consider philosophical responses to Wagner, from Nietzsche to Adorno and up to the present day.  

Programme details

Term Starts: 23rd April   

Week 1:          Wagner’s intellectual development

Week 2:          'The Ring of the Nibelung': Wagner’s intentions and changing plans

Week 3:          'The Ring': interpretations (1)

Week 4:          'The Ring': interpretations (2)

Week 5:          'Tristan and Isolde'

Week 6:          'The Mastersingers of Nuremberg'

Week 7:          'Parsifal’

Week 8:          Nietzsche and Wagner

Week 9:          Adorno and others

Week 10:        Nationalism and anti-semitism


Background Reading

Spencer & Millington., Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung: A Companion

Wagner, Richard., The Ring of the Nibelung, tr. John Deathridge (Penguin, 2018)

Magee, Bryan., Wagner and Philosophy

Scruton, Roger., Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde' 

Scruton, Roger., The Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung

Kitcher & Schacht., Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner’s Ring

Tanner, Michael., Wagner

If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September and we will try to ensure that as many titles as possible are available in the Library by the start of each term. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Course fee: £205.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Meade McCloughan

Meade McCloughan has been studying philosophy for over 30 years and has taught at University College London and Birkbeck College London.  He is on the organising group of the Marx and Philosophy Society.

Course aims

To examine the philosophical aspects of Wagner's main music dramas.

Course Objectives

1. To understand the philosophical influences on Wagner.

2. To appreciate the ways in which Wagner's works reflect and transform these philosophical influences.

3. To evaluate a diverse range of philosophical responses to Wagner's works.

Teaching methods

Each week, the tutor will give a presentation before opening up for discussion in class. Reading material will be circulated in advance, and handouts made available each week. Students will be able to benefit from formative feedback on written work during the course.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. be able to understand the main philosophical theories which influenced Wagner.

2. be able to appreciate the ways in which Wagner's music dramas in part develop out of these philosophical influences.

Assessment methods

Participants will be given four short exercises during the course to take home and complete (up to 500 words each) and then return subsequently (either hardcopy or electronically).   The tutor will assess and provide written comments on completed exercises.  Students will be able to do all four short exercises.

Students can chose to be assessed for the course EITHER on the basis of THREE completed short exercises OR by submitting an essay of 1,500 words on a chosen topic from the course (suggested questions will be provided during the course).  Those choosing to write an essay can submit a 500 word draft for feedback in advance of submitting the final version or can use one of the short exercises for the same purpose.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Familiarity with at least some of Wagner's main music dramas would be desirable.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)