Wagner and Philosophy

Course summary

Wagner and Philosophy


Richard Wagner (1813-1883) has long been considered one of the most obviously philosophical of the great artists in the European tradition.  This is in recognition both of the way in which his work was particularly open to philosophical influences and of the extent to which it has in turn stimulated significant philosophical responses.  We will start by evaluating the importance of Schopenhauer’s philosophy for Wagner, before considering the extent to which the music dramas can be understood as presenting their own distinctive philosophical ideas. There will be then be two different takes on philosophical approaches to Wagner, focusing on the most important and sustained instance of this in the work of Wagner’s one-time friend and colleague, Nietzsche, but also taking in twentieth-century responses from Adorno and others.

Programme details



2.45pm         Course Registration


3.00pm         Wagner and Schopenhauer

                     MEADE McCLOUGHAN


4.30pm         Tea / coffee


5.00pm         Wagner and philosophy: a tale told by idiots?

                     JOHN DEATHRIDGE


6.30pm         Break / bar open


7.00pm         Dinner


8.15pm-        Nietzsche and Wagner

9.30pm         MEADE McCLOUGHAN





8.15am         Breakfast (residents only)


9.30am         “Modernity’s most instructive case”: Nietzsche, Adorno vs. Tanner, Scruton

                     JOHN DEATHRIDGE


10.45am       Coffee / tea


11.15am       Q & A

Questions directed by MARIANNE TALBOT


12.30pm       Break / bar open


1.00pm         Lunch


2.00pm         Course disperses



Recommended reading


Adorno, T., In Search of Wagner (New Left Books, 1961)

Magee, B., Wagner and Philosophy (Penguin, 2001)

Tanner, M., Wagner (HarperCollins, 1996)

Scruton, R., The Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung (Penguin 2016).


In 2018 Penguin will be publishing John Deathridge’s new translation of The Ring with an introduction by John.



Five BBC talks on “Wagner’s Philosophers” from May 2013, including one by John Deathridge: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01sl7fj/episodes/guide

There are excerpts from Bryan Magee’s book here: http://www.richardwagner.be/publicaties/Wagner%20and%20philosophy.pdf



Accommodation for this weekend is at Rewley House for Saturday night only.

Depending on availability it may also be possible to extend your stay, please enquire at the time of booking for availability and prices.


All bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.


Unfortunately it is not yet possible to book twin room accommodation online, so if you wish to book a twin room, please send in your completed enrolment form or contact the Day & Weekend Events Office, Email: ppdayweek@conted.ox.ac.uk



Alumni 10% Discount: £0.00
Friends of RH 10% Discount: £0.00
Phil.Soc Members 10% Discount: £0.00
Summer school 10% discount: £0.00
Tuition (includes tea/coffee): £77.00
Baguette Sunday only (lunch): £4.70
Dinner Saturday: £19.00
Single B&B Saturday Night: £75.85
Single Bed Only (no breakfast) - Saturday Night: £64.85
Sunday Lunch: £13.50
Twin B&B Saturday Night (per person): £54.35


If you are in receipt of a state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses



Dr Meade McCloughan


Meade McCloughan has been studying philosophy for 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.

Professor John Deathridge


John Deathridge is Emeritus King Edward Professor of Music, King’s College London. Before that he was Reader in Music at the University of Cambridge. He has taught at the Universities of Princeton and Chicago and continues to be active as a performer (he is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists) and regular broadcaster. In 2002 he was elected a corresponding member of the American Musicological Society and was president of the Royal Musical Association 2005-2008.

Mr Jonathan Darnborough

Director of Studies

Jonathan Darnborough is Director of Studies in Music and Departmental Lecturer in Music at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education.  He is a composer and pianist and has worked in continuing education throughout his career.

Jonathan studied piano and composition at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and the Royal Northern College of Music.  He was a prizewinner in the 1992 Franco-Italian Music Competition in Paris and has performed in the USA, France, Holland, Italy and Indonesia.  The Boston Globe has described him as having “a compositional voice that was unmistakably his own”.  He is currently working on an opera based on Euripides’s Hecuba and writing an online course on musical analysis for Oxford.

He is the author of an online course, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Ms Marianne Talbot

Director of Studies


Marianne Talbot took her first degree at London University, then her B.Phil at Oxford (Corpus Christi College). She has taught for the colleges of Oxford University for 30 years (1987 – 1990 at Pembroke College, 1991 – 2000 at Brasenose College). She has been Director of Studies in Philosophy at OUDCE since 2001. She is the author of Bioethics: An Introduction, and Critical Reasoning: A Romp Through the Foothills of Logic. Marianne’s podcasts have been hugely popular. Two of them have been global number one on iTunesU. One of these (The Nature of Arguments) has been downloaded 7 million times.