Trio Bisessual (Gesamtausgabe) (German Edition)
The Communion theme heard at the very beginning of the work displays considerable complexity in its structural and expressive components, consisting as it does of a synthesis of several motives, each of which is capable of detachment and independent development. The beginning of the Communion theme, with its suspended rise through the notes of the tonic triad followed by another ascending step to the sixth scale degree, was also adapted by Wagner from a preexisting source — a rather obscure choral work composed by his father-in-law, Franz Liszt. The connection is important yet unfamiliar in writings about Parsifal, so we shall describe it here in some detail.
Longfellow met Liszt that evening in the company of the American painter George Healy, who captured the occasion in a fine oil portrait of the composer that now hangs at the former Longfellow residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His characteristic head, with its long, iron-grey hair, sharply etched features, and penetrating black eyes, and his tall, slim figure shrouded in priestly vestments produced so impressive a picture that Longfellow let out an involuntary whisper: Healy, you must paint that for me!
Knopf, , 3: Healy, Reminiscences of a Portrait Painter Chicago: The triggering event was a joint concert by Liszt and Wagner in Budapest on March 10, The concert had been brought about by Hans Richter, who was conductor of the Budapest National Theater and who had been chosen by Wagner to conduct the first performances of the Ring cycle at the first Bayreuth Festival in The idea was to raise funds for Bayreuth, and the program accordingly included excerpts from the Ring, conducted by the composer.
This was no more than to display, in a series of pictures, the life of a man of genius, resisting all temptations, laying aside all fears, heedless of all warnings, and pressing right on to accomplish his purpose. Bernard are the representatives of religious forms and ceremonies, and with their oft-repeated prayer mingles the sound of his voice, telling them there is something higher than forms and ceremonies.
Filled with these aspirations, he perishes; without having reached the perfection he longed for; and the voice heard in the air is the promise of immortality and progress ever upward. Commentators on Parsifal have often paid insufficient attention to the influence of Liszt on Wagner. At the same time, in Parsifal, the initially unharmonized line, with its suspended rhythm and avoidance of stress on the downbeat, evokes the aura of Gregorian chant — an impression conveyed again toward the framing close of the Communion theme.
Wagner also evokes Gregorian intonations in another prominent thematic idea associated with the Grail: Wagner, for his part, follows a parallel procedure in devising certain of the motives and themes in Parsifal. Rowohlt, , In these instances, Wagner allows a basic intervallic shape to assume different and even antithetical meanings, depending upon whether the thematic contour manifests a consonant diatonic stability, or if that shape is distorted through dissonant chromaticism. The special richness of the Parsifal music depends crucially on such configurations that reflect the powerful oppositional forces at work in the drama.
Nevertheless, the reunification of spear and Grail stands for a symbolic integration of male and female principles,56 and a qualitatively new situation arises at the conclusion for Kundry, who is as ancient and archetypal as any of the characters in the drama. Verlagsbuchhandlung Anton Pustet, , — Beck, , —92; Eckhard Roch, Psychodrama: A Study in Interpretation, trans. Accordingly, it seems that it is not simply Parsifal himself with whom she is to be reconciled at the conclusion, but with that undisclosed redeemer of whom Parsifal is the representative or agent.
Thus, for Kundry, Parsifal creates a bridge to that other sphere, the realm of the undisclosed redeemer. U of C Press, , The curtain really ought to fall here, at the key change to A minor. During afternoon coffee on April 29, , after having recently completed the music of Parsifal in his drafts, Wagner told Cosima: The closing music then becomes the primary means of conveying this enhanced integration as a communal experience. Parsifal , Among these are the use of source material from the Germanic past; a liberal use, freely changing and selecting what he needed. The medieval material provided him with a vehicle by means of which he could portray problems of the nineteenth century.
Foster, and Thomas Grey for help in assembling research materials for this chapter. Richard Wagner in seinen Helden Munich: Through these works, Wagner had become acquainted with the Grail legend for the first time, and the medieval world had a decisive impact on him. This was the beginning of his lifelong fascination with medieval literature that resulted in its use as raw material for his own works.
In , Wagner had been appointed Hofkapellmeister in Dresden, and the reading that he did in the ensuing years proved decisive for his later dramatic production. In his autobiographical Mein Leben, Wagner recounts that when vacationing in Marienbad during the summer of , he took with him works of Wolfram and the medieval fragment about Lohengrin as reading material.
Mit dem Buche unter dem Arm vergrub ich mich in die nahen Waldungen, um am Bache gelagert mit Titurel und Parzival in dem fremdartigen und doch so innig traulichen Gedichte Wolframs mich zu unterhalten. So I took along reading material that would suit this purpose: I have based my discussion substantially on these sources; more specific references will be given when needed. Wagner also saw a clear association between Parsifal and Tristan in this early stage of his Grail legend research. In his autobiography, he reports that in he had considered including Parsifal as a character in Tristan und Isolde, his idea being to have Parsifal enter in the third act and, while on his way to the Grail Temple seeking the Grail, encounter the wounded Tristan on his sickbed.
In theorizing about why 4 All translations are my own, unless otherwise noted. Wapnewski, Der traurige Gott, Metzler, , —80, here cited from — All subsequent references to Schulze will be to this article. Martin Geck and Egon Voss, vol. CICORA Wagner abandoned this plan, Wapnewski explains that despite the analogous situation of Tristan and Amfortas, it was not feasible, because Parsifal would have contrasted too strongly with Tristan, and the two figures would have represented an antithesis that Wagner, at this stage of his life, could not resolve.
In some ways, the two works are based on different conceptions entirely. Parsifal, as a naive young lad, is obviously a counterpart of Siegfried and Walther von Stolzing. In his autobiography, Wagner recounts having received the inspiration for Parsifal and having written the first prose sketch for the work in April In Mein Leben, Wagner wrote: On Good Friday I awoke in this house for the first time to bright sunshine: I had not dealt with that poem since my vacation in Marienbad, where I conceived Meistersinger and Lohengrin; now its ideal content emerged overwhelmingly before me, and working from the thought of Good Friday I quickly conceived an entire drama, which I divided into three acts and immediately sketched out with a few broad strokes.
It was, he hypothesizes, a manipulation, a legend. On April 22, , Cosima reported: The prose sketch in question has been lost. The second version was undated. Schott published the dramatic text in Mainz in December of Bergfeld, Das braune Buch, 53— These documents contain much material useful to the critic concerned with the genesis and the interpretation of the work.
The influence of his past reading is unmistakable; at the same time, though, Wagner had his own aims in writing Parsifal, and ideas about the legend that differed vastly from the source materials and went far beyond the worlds portrayed in any of them.
A Companion to Wagner's Parsifal (Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture)
Although Wagner used works of the Germanic past, and was a major factor in helping to popularize them in the nineteenth century, he never intended his works as mere straightforward dramatizations of his medieval sources. Rather, he made radical changes in them to tailor them to his own historical age and contemporary circumstances.
His Parsifal, accordingly, differs from the medieval Grail romances in drastic ways. In Parzival, Wolfram uses his French sources and the current medieval conventions in a new and complex way. To complicate matters of derivation, he also refers to a mysterious Kyot as his source, who is the subject of much critical controversy, quite possibly a fictitious entity whose function is to ironicize the medieval convention of citing authority.
Beck, , 63—67, 90—; and Joachim Bumke, Wolfram von Eschenbach, 7th rev. As a young boy, Parzival has rudimentary ideas about good versus evil, and God, and wants to learn about knighthood. His inability to discern between knights and deities leads him to ask a passing group of knights if they are God.
He follows them, and runs away from his mother, who raised him sheltered from knights to avoid the perils that caused the death of his father. Parzival arrives at the court of King Arthur, and on the way there kills his cousin Ither and dons his red armor, which thus becomes his knightly costume. He must learn the forms and customs of knightly existence while attaining a proper relationship with God. At Pelrapeire he frees Queen Condwiramurs and marries her. Later he encounters an old knight, Gurnemanz, who instructs him on chivalry.
Upon entering the Grail Castle at Munsalvaesche, he watches the ceremony of the Grail. The king, Anfortas, suffers from a wound, yet Parzival does not inquire as to why the Grail King is ailing, as he has been taught not to ask inappropriate questions. Parzival spends a restless night in the Grail Castle; the next morning, it is empty, and he leaves.
Parzival feels he has been abandoned by God, and resolves to seek and find the Grail. In these Gawan books, Parzival occasionally appears anonymously. The basics of the Grail Realm are revealed when the hermit Trevrizent, whom Parzival encounters, teaches him about the Grail and his lineage; Parzifal himself is descended from the Grail family. Trevrizent explains to Parzival that the present Grail King has been wounded and tells of the circumstances surrounding the injury.
The romance also contains various adventures that seem to have very little direct relation to Parzival, but rather narrate the exploits of Gawan, a model of chivalry and knightly conduct. CICORA Parzival proceeds through a vast series of adventures, repeated encounters, revealed identities, and narratives that tell the prehistory and impart ontological information in pieces that gradually accumulate to form a rich, complex tapestry. It is full of varied verbal repetition and parallels, and contains many figures, events, and details.
The romance is, though, clearly a literary expression of the medieval worldview, and for this reason the main forces of the Middle Ages are evident in this work. They consist of family, the ties of blood relationship; the knightly status, the code of chivalry; courtly love minne ; and religion. Wolfram has, nevertheless, decisively changed and significantly deepened the traditional structure of medieval knightly romance. A catastrophe ensues, and he is found guilty of some fault or failing. He must therefore rectify the situation, expiate his guilt or make good on the omission, and accomplish something.
Then he will be found worthy of being reintegrated into courtly society and joining the Round Table. Wolfram has already loosened the traditional structures that he was working with, for he demonstrated in Parzival that chivalry as an ideal was in itself not enough for him. King Arthur is much more than an individual literary figure; rather, he is the center of courtly society, and represents the entire chivalric worldview, the basic elements of which are adventure, honor, and courtly love.
Gawan is the ideal Arthurian knight. The Arthurian world lacks the religious perspective of the Grail Realm. The Grail requires humility and sacrifice, service of God. For Wolfram, God was the means to love and redemption. Wagner was, like Wolfram, religious in a private, unconventional manner, one that resisted identification with organized religion or a particular faith or church.
Both preferred to practice an individual piety, and questioned organized religion and learned theology. However, each of the two works under discussion here expresses its respective epoch, fulfilling the intentions of its creator while illustrating his particular Weltanschauung. In order for Parsifal to do this, it is essential that he undergo a process of development or arrive at some insight into himself and the world in which he lives. He sees a ceremony and has no idea what is going on; later he understands. Wagner, however, had his own ideas about what the Parzival legend signified.
Some of the characters resemble their namesakes in obvious ways, through a similarity of name or dramatic function. The title character is clearly a modern counterpart of the medieval fool turned Grail King. Amfortas is clearly modeled after the ailing medieval Grail King Anfortas. In other cases, the character derivation is more complex. In the first act of the drama, when Gurnemanz asks Parsifal where he got his bow and arrows from, he tells of how he followed the group of knights and wanted to become like them, as though he had read his script in the medieval romance that was the source of his story.
In both works, the Grail is guarded by a group of knights who are summoned to it and go forth into the world on adventures at its command. Wagner obviously based the story of the founding of the Grail Realm on his source. There are similarities between what Gurnemanz tells Parsifal in the first act and what Trevrizent narrates. Trevrizent gives Parzival a more detailed version of what Lohengrin and Gurnemanz relate to their onstage and offstage audience about how the Grail was brought to earth by a host of angels.
According to Gurnemanz, one cannot seek the Grail; it summons those chosen individuals to itself. The changes that Wagner made in the legendary configuration and details were part of a far-reaching difference in conception. Accordingly, redemption consists in a negation of the will that manifests itself, in particular, through the sexual drive. A survey of some basic parameters indicates the vast difference in worldview in the two works. Trevrizent points out the significance of the liturgical calendar. Time has cosmic as well as religious dimensions, as it is also determined by the positions and rotations of the planets.
The geography of the Grail Realm is appropriately mysterious. It seems to exist, but at the same time, the Grail Realm and the Grail Castle do not seem real. However, many other names mentioned in the work are real, and the episodes take place in widely varied geographical locales. The romance spans three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. The succession of generations has yielded to a surreal simultaneity, with Titurel alive in the grave.
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Furthermore, though the work supposedly takes place in medieval Spain, the entire drama, encompassing both the Grail Realm and beyond, exists at one further remove from the real world. In his notebooks, letters, and prose tracts, Wagner wrote extensively about the source material that he used for his dramas. In these commentaries, he also did not hesitate to specify what he felt this raw material lacked, and how his own versions improved on these legends in important ways.
What is relevant for the understanding of his dramas is how he intended his work to differ from his sources. He had his own purposes, and expounded upon them at elaborate length. The medieval romance was obviously unsuitable for stage presentation due to its epic scale: Thus he streamlined the action, locales, cast of characters, and plot. In both works, this predestination must merely unfold itself.
According to Wapnewski, the audience sees him in three stations: An Attempt at a Total Evaluation Bern: Francke, , — Much to the chagrin of medievalists, Wagner claims in his letter to Mathilde Wesendonk that Wolfram did not really understand the legend: In dieser Zeit konnte nichts fertig werden; Tiefe des Dichters geht sogleich in wesenloser Phantasterei unter.
Wolfram is without a doubt an immature phenomenon, and surely the age in which he lived, which was barbaric and thoroughly confused, and vacillated between Christianity and the modern state system, is to a great extent to blame for this. Nothing could possibly come to fruition in that period; any depth that a poet had would be lost immediately in insubstantial fantasizing.
Thus he criticized Wolfram for failing to narrate in the Middle Ages the version of the Parzival legend that Wagner from his nineteenth-century perspective 21 Wapnewski, Der traurige Gott, According to Carl Dahlhaus, Parsifal as a sacred drama is in many respects a paradoxical work. The outer action, Dahlhaus writes, is merely the occasion for an inner recognition. Parsifal does not act; rather, he finds himself in reacting to Kundry. The drama is actually epic, for it consists largely of narratives, such as those of Gurnemanz. Besides tending to narrative, the language of the text is epic and ceremonial, and it frequently consists of verbal pronouncements that are repeated.
Appropriately, the culmination of the drama is the fulfillment of an oracular prophecy that is ritually repeated throughout the drama by means of leitmotivs. Friedrich Verlag, , — Scholars find Parsifal a mythical work, primarily because of the universal nature of the religious insights that are presented in the drama.
The elimination of Gawan and his adventures to a mere mention signifies much more than condensation for dramatic purposes. Besides resembling Cunneware, Sigune, Cundrie, and Orgeluse, she also has a more timeless, mythical dimension. In the Good Friday scene, she is a Mary Magdalene figure.
The internal is more important than the external. Medieval knightly adventure has stopped; the highest ideal is the renunciation of the will. The complex genealogies highlighted 26 On the mythical nature of Parsifal, see, for instance, Friedrich Oberkogler, Parsifal: Verlag Freies Geistesleben, CICORA in the romance have been replaced by complex and at times sordid causal interrelationships of the characters and events portrayed. A redefinition of the Grail and the spear, the two central symbols of his drama, was very important to the composer and had widespread ramifications.
Wagner criticizes Wolfram for choosing, as he explained in his letter to Mathilde Wesendonk, the most insignificant interpretation of the Grail from among all of those that were available to him. According to Wagner, Wolfram chose the most trivial among all of the various meanings that the Grail assumed in these legends.
Wagner substantiates his claim with a lengthy explanation based on his own folklore research and his amateur philological investigations, in which he discusses the various legendary depictions of the Grail. It chooses and calls the knights deemed worthy to serve it by naming them through inscriptions that appear on it. However, the basic definition of the Grail that Wolfram used simply did not suffice for Wagner. Trevrizent explains to Parzival that Anfortas went into battle in the service of Orgeluse, and in doing so did not act according to the virtue of humility.
Camden House, , 77— A physician had removed the spearhead from the wound, from which the King never fully recovered. Anfortas, in serving the beautiful and haughty Orgeluse, embarked on an adventure not befitting the elevated status of the medieval Grail King, who is not allowed to marry any woman except for the one that the Grail names for him. It is not even clear in that work, some scholars argue, whether the spear featured in the Grail ritual, when the lance is heated and placed in the cold wound to help relieve the pain, is the same one that wounded Anfortas and that the physician extracted from the wound.
Furthermore, the spear in question is the lance of Longinus,30 with which Amfortas, as well as Christ, has been wounded. Wagner has also, appropriately enough, changed the position of the wound. His nineteenth-century Grail King has been wounded in the side, obviously a dramatic repetition, with significant and appropriate variation, of the side wound of the Passion.
In fact, the dramatic figures expound at length about the symbolic significance of the wound from which Amfortas is suffering. Furthermore, he knows very well the resultant implications of his wound. As a necessary result of the general schema he had sketched, Wagner shifted the dramatic center from the title character to the wounded Grail King.
In his letter to Mathilde Wesendonk, cited earlier, Wagner wrote: Genau betrachtet ist Anfortas der Mittelpunkt und Hauptgegenstand. Denken Sie um des Himmels willen, was da los ist! John wounded Christ on the cross with his lance. Suddenly it became frightfully clear to me: He has a spear wound, and also another wound in his heart. In his terrible pain the poor man can long for nothing else but death; to attain this supreme comfort he yearns for the sight of the Grail, in the hopes that it can close the wound; nothing else matters to him, and nothing can help.
But the Grail just prevents him from dying; gazing upon the Grail only prolongs his torment by granting him immortality. The Grail is, according to my understanding of it, the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper, and in which Joseph of Arimathia caught the blood of the Savior on the cross. What a dreadful meaning the relation of Anfortas to this miraculous cup now assumes; he who is suffering from the same wound, which the spear of a rival inflicted upon him in a passionate love-adventure — he must long for the blessing of the blood that once flowed from the spear wound of the Savior on the cross, as He was renouncing the world, redeeming the world, and suffering for the world!
Blood against blood, wound against wound — but what a difference between them! The character of Amfortas thus acquires a new significance by his participation in the Christ typology. The analogy to the third-act Tristan is clear. Both suffer with no relief in sight. The nineteenth-century Grail King is caught in a paradoxical situation. He longs for the Grail to relieve the pain, but uncovering the Grail only prolongs his torment, because it prevents him from dying, and death would be a release from his suffering.
By its very nature and effects, the Grail denies him this release. His illness has additional complications. The position of the wound, the circumstances under which it was incurred, and the implications of his post as Grail King all cause him more anguish. Wapnewski discusses Amfortas as a Christ-figure, a role he certainly seems a candidate for, as he was wounded in the side with the same spear that pierced Christ.
But Amfortas, as Wapnewski points out, partakes of the Christ typology in a negative way. The analogy is also one of antithesis. Wagner continues the passage from which I cited earlier by explaining that performing the Grail ceremony becomes a torment for Amfortas. He wants to die, but cannot, and his role as Grail King is a constant reminder of his own sinfulness and his unworthiness to play this part. The spear, he decided, should be stolen from Amfortas during his fateful excursion.
When Amfortas, much too boldly as Gurnemanz describes the action took the spear into battle against Klingsor, and was seduced by Kundry, Klingsor stole the spear from him 32 See Bergfeld, Das braune Buch, 75— On the motive of the spear, see also Wapnewski, Der traurige Gott, — Thus, a transgression of pride and arrogance caused him to be wounded. The Christological imagery is clear and extensive; the parallels and contradictions are manifold. Christ was innocent, and suffered for sinners.
Amfortas is, as he himself points out, the only sinner among the sinless. The discrepancy between what he is supposed to be, as Grail King, and what he really is causes him pain. Christ died to save sinners. Amfortas wants to die to save himself, but not others. He would rather renounce life than gain eternal life. Amfortas performed a sinful deed; Christ, who was sinless, took upon Himself the sins of mankind. Amfortas rebels against his father. Christ saves all of humanity; Amfortas kills his father.
In keeping with his basic schema, Wagner also revised the story of how the wound of the Grail King is healed, relating the suffering of Amfortas and the character progression of the title figure much more effectively than Wolfram, in his opinion. He criticized the motive of the redeeming question for being tasteless. Wagner had no need for theology or the redeeming question. The ritual of relieving the pain by putting the spear into the wound has been transformed, in the nineteenthcentury musical-dramatic version, into Parsifal healing the wound by touching it with the regained spear.
Thus there is an intricate interrelationship of the recovery of the spear and the healing of the wound. This detail obviously inspired Wagner to have Parsifal demonstrate his redeeming virtue by resisting Kundry. Not only does she travel far and wide geographically, but she also wanders from one existence to the next, through various reincarnations, unable to die, seeking Christ, whom she laughed at on the cross. She is suffering from a curse, and in a sudden outburst of self-revelation, she relates to Parsifal her cruel behavior to Christ on the cross. Her subsequent existence, she tells him, will be devoted to a search for the Redeemer whom she scorned.
She believes that Parsifal is this same Savior, and that by seducing him, she can gain redemption. It is not enough when Parsifal attains compassion with Amfortas. In order for his development to be complete, he must suffer what Amfortas suffers, and in addition, he must accept and forgive Kundry. Wagner masterfully accomplishes the correspondence of these dramatic events.
The chosen one must be tested and withstand trials. The situation was thus contrived in which the redeemer is provoked to the same sin committed by the one who needs redemption. Parsifal must suffer what Amfortas suffers; in doing so, he regains the holy spear. Der traurige Gott, — Wapnewski, Der traurige Gott, — He fell in love with Queen Iblis of Sicily and was caught in the act of adultery by her husband, King Ibert.
As an appropriate punishment for the misdeed, Clinschor was castrated. He compensates for the deficiency by amassing power. He gains magical abilities. He proclaims that whoever withstands the adventure of Schastel Marveile will become ruler there. In the first-act narrative in which he tells the prehistory of the onstage drama, Gurnemanz explains that Klingsor, unable to quiet the sinful urges within himself, resorted to a violent self-castration, thus employing external means to accomplish what is an inner state of peace.
As a result, Klingsor is banished, and his resultant actions are taken in revenge. Wagner made him into the enemy of the Grail Realm and the ruler of the opposing realm. In devising the plot in this way, to create his direct and complete determination of the dramatic action, Wagner has linked key incidents together in a decisive way.
He was obviously inspired by the fact that in the source, Anfortas was wounded when battling in the service of Orgeluse. Thus Wagner effectively eliminates any need for the redeeming question, substituting for it the redeeming deed. The healing of the wound is the result of regaining the spear. The ritual that the medieval Parzival witnesses in the Grail Castle is merely therapeutic. Its goal is to relieve the Grail King of some of his pain. The modern Grail ritual has obvious borrowings from the Catholic Mass, but these are in quotation marks.
Emotion maintained for a long time — then he talks to me about this trait of the Grail mystery: The universal order displayed here is much different from that of the medieval romance. Thus it seems wrong when the tenor athletically catches the spear that is thrown by Klingsor. The quasi-legendary nineteenth-century figures in this version of the Parzival legend are inwardly split and psychologically tormented in a specifically modern way. In revenge against the Grail Realm, Klingsor took to magic.
The character contrasts and juxtapositions significantly undermine the surface meanings, and thereby Wagner relativizes traditional values and standards as he portrays the Grail Realm in crisis. Ultimately, he wished to regenerate modern society through the use of art, and through the ultimate art form in particular, music-drama. Mitwelt und Nachwelt Stuttgart: Belser, , — The first-act ceremony in the Grail Temple is an altered version of the Catholic Mass, and Parsifal baptizes Kundry in the third act of the drama. Gurnemanz anoints Parsifal as king, and Kundry washes his feet and dries them with her hair.
Through the impact of this work and its presentation upon the audience, Wagner aimed to contribute to a regeneration of modern society — a regeneration that, like that of the Grail Realm, would be achieved through an identification with Parsifal and through the acquisition of a universal compassion, gained through metaphysical insight into the unity of all creatures. Indeed, he seems not to give much thought to the afterlife, seeking rather to be saved and redeemed in this life.
Parsifal specifically seeks salvation from surrender to sexual seduction in the person of Kundry, a surrender associated in his mind with eternal damnation. His goal is rather redeeming his honor than achieving redemption from sin. Parzival, moreover, appears unconcerned about salvation.
These pilgrims direct him to the hermit — And not only in the depictions of courtly society, but in the Grail company, which abides by courtly decorum and demeanor, women are present and active in equal numbers with the men. In society and at the Grail castle, the noble women are beautiful and the knights handsome, as befits courtly romance. The lone exception is Cundrie herself, who serves as messenger at the Grail castle and is so ugly that one would wish to be able to say that she is beautiful.
We do not hear even of any female servants at the Grail castle. Even so, she would not have been able to gain even that limited admittance had she presented herself in anything approaching the beauty she possesses. Librairie Giard, ; in English: The Story of the Grail, trans. Burten Raffel New Haven and London: Passages will be identified in the text by line, e.
U of California P, , As Gurnemanz explains to the young squires, Titurel was summoned by God to create the community. In any event, Titurel seems to interpret his vocation as the founding not merely of a company of knights to defend the faith against the infidels on the southern boundaries of Christendom, but of an exclusively male company, with even the presence of women prohibited.
Although the question is not raised in the opera, it does pose itself nonetheless: No fewer than two dozen beautiful women in dazzling 3 Richard Wagner, Parsifal: Further references to this source will be parenthetical, identified by act and page number, e. Here she has the title of Grail Queen and is the sister of the Grail King Anfortas, as one later learns. Her name, moreover, is Repanse de Joie, establishing an association between the Grail, joy, and female beauty. Purity is associated here not with male renunciation of desire but with female chastity and the accompanying absence of deceit 5: No explanation is given in Parzival for the origin of the Grail company and Grail castle, though the earliest of the Grail kings of whom we learn is named Titurel.
Anfortas is not presented to us as having been the victim of seduction or as having succumbed to it. As Trevrizent confesses to Parzival, much the same happened with him himself 9: Walter Haug, Bibliothek des Mittelalters: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, Passages will be identified in the text by book, strophe, and verse, e. The following three items provide a good overview, together with the detailed notes provided in the edition above: Realien zur Literatur, vol. Metzler, ; Heinz Rupp, ed.
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, ; and Will Hasty, ed. His behavior is excused by his adolescent innocence of the sort of lust presumably at play in the abduction of the three girls by five knights that, with a distinct lack of interest, he had been hearing about from a group of knights who were pursuing the miscreants and seeking information from Perceval about them. He stops to greet her, she returns his greeting, and she then begins to laugh, evidently at the way he looks in the peasant attire his mother had dressed him in hoping it would put a quick end to his quest to become a knight.
The old knight may have help of a sexual sort in mind in addition to other kinds of aid, but if so he can hardly expect a youth like Perceval to recognize that. To be sure, he meets again the two young beauties he encountered on his first day away from home: When he discovers who she is and why she is being punished by her beloved for presumed infidelity with Perceval, he succeeds in restoring her honor.
In this reunion, too, there is much chivalry and little hint of passion. Instead of finding his mother he comes upon the Grail castle, where he fails to ask the proper question about the lance and the Grail. Once the trance-like state has passed we hear nothing further of his thoughts about Blanchefleur. At our last glance, then, Perceval has been restored by his uncle to faith in God: To be sure, the focus here is on Gawain as the perfect knight, fulfilling the chivalric ideal, just as the Perceval story had come to be centered on his piety.
Still, erotic love is shown as integral to that ideal. The younger sister, for her part, wants to show the older sister that she is not too young to have a champion herself. Gawain indulges her in that wish, not least because he is quite charmed with her, as is her father Tibault, who advises her and helps fulfill her chivalric role — Then, there is a teenage boy who sends Gawain to his sister with the message that she is to treat him just as she would her brother — When a knight interrupts their encounter and denounces her for making love with the man who — unbeknownst to her until that moment — killed her father, her attraction to Gawain proves decisive.
Instead of registering any revulsion, she arms Gawain, giving him a chessboard as his shield. She tells her attackers they are wrong to call her a slut, but she fights like a common woman: Her haughtiness seems to be thinly veiled seductiveness: Then after Gawain has done her bidding by fetching her palfrey: After Gawain has suffered her taunts and humiliations and done all her bidding — and accomplished the seemingly impossible task by rescuing the girls and knights at an enchanted castle named the Rock of Champguin, , among them his sister, mother, and grandmother — — he gains the humble submission of the haughty beauty, who explains her prior behavior as a wish to die at the hands of a man angered by her abuse of him: It is to that erotic attraction that she surrenders in the end.
She asks only that he spend five years proving his courage as a knight before she would consider his request that she reward his service with her love and that even that would be too soon. In his anger at her haughty mocking of him, Meleans reminds her that her father is his vassal his father was a king, her father is a prince , to which she replies that she does not accept vassalage to anyone and is worthy of every crown that anyone has ever worn 7: Seeing any noble man was a thorn in her eye because she wanted Meleans to be the first among men.
When she comes to see him to ask him to be her champion, he thanks her for her support. He tells her that if ever there were a knight who experienced pangs of love for a lady as young as she, it would have to happen to him with her 7: Gawan tells her he has pledged his honor not to fight until he has jousted with a challenger Kingrimorcel and that she needs to wait another five years before she will be ripe for love. But then, remembering that Parzival recommended to him that he trust more to women than to God, he promises to be her champion, making the galant excuse that she would be fighting the joust for him, and thus inferring that this would not break his promise not to fight 7: Obilot instead offers Gawan the sleeve of a dress that her mother and father had made for her and that has touched her arm, and Clauditte then brings the sleeve to Gawan 7: Nor does the knight then tell her that she should grant Gawan anything he desires.
Instead, Wolfram lets it be simply a case of passion at first sight. It is Antikonie who offers to entertain Gawan as he may wish and who says that her brother has recommended him to her so warmly that she will give him a kiss, to which Gawan responds by saying that her lips are made for kissing.
In response, she protests suggestively that she does not even know who he is, yet in just a few minutes he wants to possess her love completely. Gawan assures her that he is of noble standing equal to hers, and having heard that an eagle often catches an ostrich that is hungry, he reaches under her outer garment to touch her. Gawan pauses during the battle to stare lustfully at her body, her mouth, her eyes, her nose. She is as slender as a hare on a spit, he thinks, so narrow is she between her hips and breasts, her body made for arousing sexual desire 8: She is a haughty, unattainable beauty.
However, she does call attention to his infatuation with her, asking him how he happens to be in love with her, and why so many men throw lightning-like glances her way. Her mockery and scorn seem aimed at spurring his interest in her as the unattainable beloved.
She must know by seeing how handsome he is that he would expect her to be equally attracted to him She takes him up to a room and helps him out of his armor. Gawan remarks about the intimacy of that act, saying that if her father had not demanded it she would have been doing too much for him. She responds that in whatever way she serves him it is solely to gain his favor Gawan asks her father to let him eat with the girl, to which the father says that this has not been previously allowed for fear that it might go to her head.
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Her father finds her there, thinks that she is crying because Gawan has seduced or raped her, and tells her it was done in fun and that she will get over it. In reality, her tears spring from Gawan persistently asking about the beautiful women in the windows of the magical castle nearby, who distract him from his attention to her After heroic Gawan releases the castle from its evil spell, he looks at the beautiful young women who are attending him, and is reminded of Orgeluse, who affected him as no woman ever had In his sleep, as his body strives to recover from its wounds, Orgeluse rules in his heart.
The ladies attending him fruitlessly beg him not to do battle with so formidable a knight in his weakened condition. Following his defeat of the knight, Orgeluse heaps scorn on him and mockingly accedes to his request that she accept his chivalric services, granting only that he may ride along with her and try to gain further renown He is overjoyed and his are thoughts so centered on her that he does not feel the pain of his wounds When Orgeluse says that he must fetch a wreath for her, he asks where he can steal the wreath that will cure his pierced heart.
With this remark, he may be alluding to his yearning to possess her. Orgeluse tells Gawan that her treatment of him was nothing but a test of love, implicitly attributing the test to her grief over the loss of so worthy a beloved as her dear Cidegast She promises to give him her love, but only once his wounds, and the hurt caused by her behavior, are healed. Orgeluse offers to accompany him to the Castle of Marvels, whereupon he lifts her up onto her horse, affording him the opportunity to embrace her She confesses to Gawan that Anfortas was serving as her champion when he was wounded, jousting with Gramoflans, on whom she wished to be revenged for his having killed her Cidegast Then she enlisted the aid of the sorcerer Klingsor, using the gifts from the Orient that Anfortas had given her, in hopes of luring Gramoflans to the magical castle and the adventures there that he surely would not have survived as Gawan has.
She brags to Gawan that she has been able to enlist all the knights into her service once they laid eyes upon her, with the exception only of one, the Red Knight, that is, Parzival When she offered him her love he said his wife Condwiramurs was more beautiful and he liked her better After she has asked Gawan whether it diminishes the value of her love that she offered it to Parzival and he replies that it does not, their eyes become riveted on one another.
The narrator suggests that if Orgeluse had slept with Gawan that night at the magical castle it would have done him well. The sexes were magically separated until his breaking of the spell, and now they eat, converse, and dance together Without yet knowing that Gawan is her grandson, Arnive suggests that in view of his wounds he should get to bed, and that Orgeluse might tuck him in and stay with him, adding that she will surely know how to take care of his needs As Arnive puts it, they fixed him so that he could never give joy to a woman.
Deprived of pleasure in love, Klingsor learned magical arts in order to rob people of joy Her love of Gahmuret makes her dread losing the son she has from him and motivates her effort to keep him ignorant of knighthood. But when that effort proves to be in vain, her fond memories of love with Gahmuret surely help inspire her advice to Parzival about women. When Parzival finds the beautiful duchess Jeschute slumbering on a bed in a tent in the forest, her lips are parted because she is dreaming desirously of love, making her that much more attractive to the narrator if not to the young innocent Parzival.
Remembering that he is supposed to kiss the woman and hold her tight, Parzival jumps on top of her, awakening her 3: After leaving Jeschute, Parzival comes upon Sigune with her dead beloved Schionatulander in her lap. When Parzival fails to put the bath towel that they offer him around himself as he emerges from the bath they withdraw, not daring to stay but also, as the narrator suggests, perhaps stealing a glance to see if he had anything missing down below, women being very concerned about that matter 3: Gournemans offers Parzival his daughter Liase as wife, to gain him as replacement for the three sons he has lost, but despite her beauty the young knight declines, because his mind is on chivalric adventure.
He says though that should he win honor as a knight then Gournemans should give Liase to him in marriage 3: Still, after leaving Gournemans, pangs of love inspired by thoughts of Liase, who treated him as a friend but did not grant him her love, pursue Parzival. He is a true son of his amorous father Gahmuret 4: Precisely by claiming that nothing untoward passed between Condwiramurs and Parzival, the narrator calls attention to the erotic potential of her nocturnal visit to him; such is the comment that the bodily members that gladly reconcile themselves to each other are not allowed to find their way to one another, because both she and he are thinking of entirely other things 4: Parzival offers to let her lie in his bed while he finds another place, but she says that if he is sufficiently in control of himself that he will not want to wrestle with her, she will lie down beside him; in doing so then, she cuddles up to him 4: The first two nights they do not have intercourse, although she considers herself already no longer a virgin; only on the third night does he, a virgin himself, begin to feel desire for intercourse, a desire helped along by his memory that his mother told him to embrace a woman tightly who granted him her love and that Gournemans had told him that man and woman are completely as one.
The narrator reports that they wove arms and legs together and he found the sweet, nearby place, so that the old custom that is ever new proved itself with the two of them and they both felt happy 4: After they have been married a while, Parzival begs leave to find out how his mother is doing, to spend a little time with her, and then to seek adventure; because Condwiramurs loves him so, she does not deny him his wish 4: He dives under the covers on the bed, causing the women to beg teasingly that he might remain awake a while for them.
They are bringing him wine and fruit, and are much taken with his handsomeness and youth. When the fourth of the young women, who is bearing fruits of paradise, kneels beside his bed, he bids her to sit down beside him on the bed. She teasingly protests that he should not turn her head with an invitation like that, otherwise he will not get served in the way that the lord of the castle has directed 5: After leaving the castle and encountering Sigune, who is sitting in a linden tree with the embalmed corpse of her beloved Schionatulander in her lap, and from whom he learns about the questions he was supposed at ask at the castle, Parzival comes upon Jeschute, whom her jealous husband Orilus is punishing for her presumed infidelity.
After the reconciliation effected by Parzival, Orilus and Jeschute bathe and rush from the tub to the bed, where she gets rid of her sorrow as her body well deserves, and in a tight embrace and well-practiced in the art of love they attain its greatest pleasure 5: Parzival then fights two duels in succession — with Segramors and Keye — in a trance, imagining that he sees Condwiramurs in the three drops of blood in the snow.
She hurls shame on his beauty and his masculinity, and says that while she is ugly in his eyes, she is not as ugly as he 6: Then she goes on to say to him that there was never baseness as great in a man so handsome 6: He first exclaims how many beautiful women were there and only then speaks of the Grail, as the greatest of miracles, and of Anfortas waiting so helplessly, and about how little help to Anfortas his visit to the castle was 6: After she has helped him into his armor, he kisses the beautiful, virginal Cunneware, in a farewell full of pain between the two who loved one another so 6: She is wearing the ring as a token of engagement to him, to whom she was prevented by death from offering the love customary between men and women and which her virginal heart told her she should give to him 9: Bene tightly embraces Gawan, whom she has chosen in place of the whole world as the crown of her happiness, and declares to him that the hand of whoever has done this to his beautiful body should be cursed His quest of the Grail has deprived him of her, and he declares that God does not want him to be happy Cundrie arrives to tell Parzival that an inscription on the Grail has appointed him Grail King, that Condwiramurs and his little son Lohengrin are to join him at the Grail castle, that the position of the planets likewise prophesy his good fortune, and that he has won peace for his soul and good fortune in life through his brave deeds and his endurance of care and woe On his way to be reunited with Condwiramurs at the spot where he saw the three drops of blood in the snow, occasioning his trance-like visions of her, Parzival stops by to see his uncle Trevrizent, to tell him that his brother Anfortas has been healed.
Trevrizent adds that now as Grail King it is time for Parzival to devote himself instead to humility They are discreetly left alone in the tent, so that Condwiramurs can give him a replacement, the narrator says, with red and white her red lips and white skin for the sufferings of love he experienced there earlier in seeing the three drops of blood. There they discover her dead, kneeling at the side of his corpse. They place her corpse next to his, and close the grave When Anfortas and Parzival suggest to Feirefiz that he let himself be baptized so that he may see the Grail, which Titurel says is invisible to heathens, Feirefiz asks whether baptism will help him in love.
When Feirefiz invites Anfortas to return to the Orient with him, the latter declines, saying that he will now devote himself to humility as a knight serving the Grail and will no longer fight on behalf of women, though enmity toward women will never arise in him, for men derive great pleasure from them, though he himself enjoyed little of it When the Moorish queen Belacane lays eyes on Gahmuret she is seized by the pain of love.
Her heart that had remained virginally under lock and key opened itself immediately whether she wanted or not, so lovely did he seem to her 1: On learning that Gahmuret has defeated the forces besieging her, Belacane goes to meet him, brings him to her apartments, helps him out of his armor, and takes him to bed, where she engages with him in sweet, exalted love 1: Belacane proves more than willing to do this right away, but he has already sailed away by the time she finds the note 1: As he is pausing to rest from the jousting tourney, a letter is given to him from Amphlise, queen of France — whom like Belacane he has loved and left — offering him her love and saying that she is more beautiful, more powerful, and better at love-making than the Queen of Wales 2: Because Gahmuret was the victor, even if only in the preliminary jousts that resulted in the tourney itself having to be called off because of his defeat of the others, Herzeloyde lays claim to his love, which makes him the man between three women: Amphlise, his first love, who rendered him a knight; his Moorish wife Belacane, and Herzeloyde 2: From that point he wore a shift of hers that she had worn next to her body over his chain mail so that when he returned from combat she could put it on again 2: Not caring if anyone is looking on, she tears her shift from her chest, repeatedly grabbing her breasts and pressing them to her mouth — a very womanly thing to do, the narrator comments.
Squeezing milk from her breasts she exclaims that it is the product of true love and that were she not yet baptized the milk would be her baptismal water with which she would sprinkle herself, alone and in front of the others, and with which together with her tears she will express her grief over the loss of her beloved husband 2: She takes out her breasts and pushes the nipples into his mouth, as it seems to her that she is cradling Gahmuret again in her arms and she thinks about the Queen of Heaven having nursed Jesus at her breasts 2: Thus it is passion more than piety that triumphs in the end.
He has emasculated himself in a vain effort to gain admission to the company of the Grail knights; and instead of employing his magic to separate the sexes, he uses beautiful young women to tempt the Grail knights to violate their dedication to celibacy. It is the reawakening of that sexual desire that causes the wound in his side to reopen 1: In the opera, however, erotic passion is celebrated in the negative; our attention is centered on the struggle against it.
Unlike Perceval and Parzival in the medieval poems, Parsifal is not depicted so much as the great warrior, and certainly not as jousting to win the favor of a woman. His turn to piety comes as a result of his reaction to his first experience of being kissed by a woman in a sexual way. When Kundry then begins her attempt to seduce him, she quickly recognizes that she will have to approach him in a maternal fashion, the role of son to mother being the only way of relating to women that is familiar to him.
Tender thoughts about his mother are not likely the stuff to arouse him sexually, one would think; yet Kundry must believe there is no choice with the son of a widowed mother who so wished to keep him for herself as Herzeleide did. Thus, in a desperate attempt to turn his thoughts to sex, Kundry asks him whether his mother did not embrace him almost too passionately at times, for example when he had been missing and then turned up unharmed 2: It is at this point in her attempt to seduce Parsifal that, impersonating his mother, Kundry plants her long passionate kiss on his lips.
In the figure of Parsifal, as in that of Klingsor, the power of erotic passion is not denied, but rather celebrated, if only again rather in the negative. Similarly, while the Grail messenger Cundrie displays wounded vanity in the fashionable way she dresses to hide her ugliness, she is not depicted as struggling between pride and humility.
Until she meets up with Parsifal she has never met a man she could not seduce, at least as she tells it. Or rather, the only man who did not succumb to her charms was Jesus himself, who met her laughter with a gaze that bespoke compassion not desire, caritas not eros.
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Ever since, she tells Parsifal, she has been seeking vainly for a man who would respond to her that way, impervious to her seductive beauty and wiles 2: Klingsor has gained dominion over her because she cannot awaken desire in him; but he is no longer a man and thus cannot satisfy her yearning for a man whose purity is proof against her seductive wiles. Both Orgeluse and Kundry find the role of femme fatale attractive, but in the end they yearn to be defeated.
His great triumph was not only to reject her seductive advances, but to rescue her from the compulsion to seduce. She can be Mary Magdalene to his Jesus. It is clear, though, that Kundry expires in the end, at the moment when Parsifal performs the miraculous healing of Amfortas and fulfills his destiny to become Grail King 3: There is thus the possibility that she dies of a broken heart.
Her aim had been to seduce Parsifal and thereby to destroy him, but his resistance to her seductive wiles made her want instead to possess him, as lover or wife. In any event, she is proven right when, her advances having been rejected, she declares to Parsifal, in effect, that his pathway will always lead him to her even as he is intent on finding Amfortas cf. For he encounters her at the very moment he comes upon the Grail company again. But what form of the sacred are we dealing with here? But how else can the action of Parsifal be understood, if not in the category of myth? It distinguishes itself from the rationality of philosophy through its use of images and the archetypical nature of its forms and characters; it differs from dogmatic religion by the freedom with which it undertakes to re-form and re-create traditional elements to revitalize them.
The most significant literary versions of this myth were written in quick succession between the end of the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries: The Grail offers eternal life and mystical enlightenment. Only those who have been called to the Grail can experience its wonders, but even Parzival, whom it has summoned, fails to prove himself worthy of it at his first visit and is thrown out of the Grail castle.
These various versions of the Grail legend share a Christian origin insofar as they combine the symbolism of the Grail legend with liturgical elements of the Christian Eucharist. At the same time, however, these works also point far beyond the Christian tradition by also using cryptic symbolism of ancient sects, Orphic mysteries, or Oriental teachings — for example, the mysteries of the phoenix, symbolizing rebirth; hermetic or alchemical elements; and teachings of secret societies in Arabia that came to Europe via Spain.
The path to the Grail is always a way of initiation. The Grail works of the High Middle Ages arose at a time of religious unrest, in the midst of many forces that were seeming to bring about a spiritual rebirth. Thus they represent a synthesis of various religious currents that stood apart from the organized church, which the Grail legend deliberately ignored.
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