Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde

roger-scruton-death-devoted-heartOUP (2004)

A tale of forbidden love and inevitable death, the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde recounts the story of two lovers unknowingly drinking a magic potion and ultimately dying in one another's arms.

Critics have lauded Wagner's Tristan und Isolde for the originality and subtlety of the music, but have often viewed the drama as a "mere trifle," about Wagner's own forbidden affair with Matilde Wesendonk, the wife of a banker who supported him during his exile in Switzerland. In Death-Devoted Heart Scruton aims to vindicate the stature of the drama, presenting it as more than just a sublimation of the composer's love for Wesendonck or a wistful romantic dream. Scruton argues that Tristan und Isolde has profound religious meaning, as relevant today as it was to Wagner's contemporaries. Both philosophical and musicological, Scruton's analysis touches on the nature of tragedy, the significance of ritual sacrifice, and the meaning of redemption. Scruton provides a guide to the drama while offering insight into the nature of erotic love and the peculiar place of the erotic in our culture.

"Death-Devoted Heart is a book on music, tragedy, love, sacrifice and redemption. It is partly a brilliant critical/theoretical study, partly a manifesto for a new religion. It's a rare case of a philosopher really telling you what it's all about." - Tom Lubbock, The Guardian Review

246 pages, 978-0-19-516691-0 | Hardback

Buy from Amazon

Latest Articles

Gratitude for Philosophy- The Telegraph, Dec 18

I began my career as an academic philosopher, and am often asked what philosophers do. ‘Philosophy’ means ‘the love of wisdom’, but what is wisdom? Does the person with wisdom...

Groupes d'Etudes Géopolitiques Interview - Dec 18

Read the interview between Sir Roger Scruton and Laetitia Strauch-Bonart for the Geopolitical Study Group HERE.

Roger Scruton and Jordan Peterson on the Transcendent

'Apprehending the Transcendent' A conversation between Dr Jordan Peterson and Sir Roger Scruton, moderated by Dr Stephen Blackwood, introduced by Professor Douglas Hedley, presented by The Cambridge Centre for the Study of Platonism and Ralston College,...

Close Encounters - Puritanical Progressivism, Dec 18

Sir Roger Scruton & Ben Weingarten discuss political unrest in the West & its historical context, the puritanical nature of progressivism & attempts by its adherents to stifle dissent, the...

Recent Books

Souls in the Twilight

Beaufort Books  (October 2018) As the lights that have guided us go out, people begin to wander in the twilight, seeking their place of belonging. In these stories, set in...

Music as an Art

Bloomsbury  (August 2018) Music as an Art begins by examining music through a philosophical lens, engaging in discussions about tonality, music and the moral life, music and cognitive science and German...

Where We Are: The State of Britain Now

Where We Are: The State of Britain Now

Bloomsbury (November 2017) Addressing one of the most politically turbulent periods in modern British history, philosopher Roger Scruton asks how, in these circumstances, we can come to define our identity,...

2019 Events

Fri 24th May - Thurs 6th June - America

Wed 31st Jul - Fri 9th Aug - 2019 Scrutopia Summer School

Thur 29th Aug - Sun 1st Sept - Scrutopia Alumni Meeting 

Thur 21st Feb - Wagner Society Talk, London

Fri 25th Jan - ABO Conference, Belfast

Fri 26 - Sat 27th April - CRASSH conference, Cambridge