Chapter Ten encapsulates in a nutshell the strengths and weaknesses of Nattiez's book. Nattiez's intellectual roots, of course, are in French structuralism, and he shares with the best of his models--of whom Levi-Strauss is certainly one--an imaginative and wide-ranging mind, a polymathic command of sources in a dizzying spectrum of disciplines, a penchant for close reading of texts, and a flair for the "paradigmatic method" of discovering deep parallels that are hidden beneath textual surfaces. So it comes as no surprise that in this chapter Nattiez navigates his way breezily among many of Levi-Strauss's works, Wagner's writings, Wagner's operas, Ravel's Bolero (as analyzed by Levi-Strauss), Freud and Jung, with passing references to Paul Ricoeur, Roman Jakobson, Umberto Eco, a few contemporaries of Freud, and a number of French critics thrown in for good measure. Nor does it come as a surprise that Nattiez has discovered a structural parallel that really is worth knowing and thinking about: that just as Wagner invented a powerful sexual metaphor for the relation of text and music in opera (the text as male, fertilizing with content and meaning the womb of music, which is female), so did Levi-Strauss create a striking metaphor for the communication of musical meaning, which resembles Wagner's in intriguing ways. But in the same way that structuralists (as pointed out by Nattiez himself in this very chapter) often succumbed to the temptation of collapsing the wildest differences into the flatness of simple binary oppositions, which amass their great power in part because they are sometimes defined so broadly as to be able to swallow up everything in their path, so does Nattiez succeed in his task of discovering "androgyny" to underlie both Wagner's prose writings and his operas in part because he subsumes so much under the term that it becomes virtually meaningless. And Nattiez's attack on structuralist interpretation, while perhaps justifiable in its own right, is just one part of a gratuitous and curious polemic that weighs down the entire last part of the book.
 Previous reviewers of Nattiez's study
 Compounding the confusion is a serious logical problem. In the light of the above description of androgyny as the "symbolic representation of the union of the two sexes," what do we do with a statement that appears elsewhere in the book, to the effect that the "metaphor of androgyny" "seems to be based on a simple, universal formula: X is to Y as man is to woman" (p. 288)? This formulation is not about the union of characteristics into a single entity at all, but about a relationship of characteristics themselves. Neither in the symbolic world nor the real one should we have to deal with a word that means both the combination of two contrasting terms into one, and the relationship of the two terms to each other. (If x/y = x + y, the only solutions are everything and nothing.)
 Central though this terminological morass is to the book and its argument, and irritating though it be, it is not fatal. My advice to the reader: go with whatever definition of "androgyny" seems to work at the time, and don't worry about it. Once one grants wide berth to androgyny, and in fact begins to realize that the real point is that sexual metaphors dominate Wagner's stage and prose works, and that there are powerful and intriguing connections between the two, one finds much of worth to ponder. To be sure, there are frustrations: Nattiez often ranges far from the topic at hand, he obscures his argument with unnecessary detail, and in the third and final part of the book he appropriates his notion of Wagnerian androgyny in the service of a political polemic that in my view detracts from rather than contributes to the effectiveness of his study. But he does provide a detailed and well-researched overview of Wagner's changing use of sexualized metaphors in his conceptualization of his own art and that of his predecessors, and his linking of these metaphors in the prose works to the stage works does offer a new and valuable critical perspective.
 The question that motivates the book is, "What is the significance
of androgyny in Wagner's works and theoretical writings when seen in
the context of the texts, the composer's life, and the age in which he
lived?" (Preface, xiv-xv).
 Part One (Chapters 1-5) posits androgyny as a theme that links
Wagner's writings from 1848 to 1851--that is, those from around the
time of the early gestation of the text of Ring--to the Ring
itself. Nattiez's argument here, in brief, is as follows. For the
Wagner of Opera and Drama, the history of musical drama, from the
time of the ancient Greeks to his own time, proceeds from 1) an
original (androgynous) unity of poetry and music, to 2) a division of
the two, either into spoken drama and absolute music, or--what is
worse--a mismatch of drama and music in Italian opera and the
detestable "modern opera" of Meyerbeer, and 3) a yet-to-be-realized
creative union, in the perfect musico-dramatic work of the future, of
(male) poetry and (female) music, with the poetic or dramatic element
dominating the musical one. Similarly, in the Ring there is a
progression from 1) an original (androgynous) state of
nature--represented by the three Rheindaughters, who, though all
female, embody the unity of the sister arts of music, poetry, and
dance (a natural state of affairs that, according to Wagner, prevailed
in Greek tragedy; to 2) a period of rupture ("unity" is destroyed by
Alberich's theft of the gold, and later Siegfried must forge the
shards of the sword together), in which Nattiez is quick to find
parallels between the mythic Alberich and Mime, on the one hand, and
the historical Meyerbeer, on the other; to 3) the triumphant union of
Siegfried and Brunnhilde at the end of Act III of Siegfried. Since,
in the final scene of that act, Siegfried and Brunnhilde merge into
one, each taking on characteristics of the opposite sex ("the true
human being is both male and female," Wagner wrote to August Rockel in
1852), Nattiez interprets their union as embodying symbolically the
bringing together the male poet and the female musician--but with the
poet, or Siegfried with his sword, dominant--into an artistic whole
that transcends "modern opera" and that restores the androgynous unity
of the beginning of the cycle--and, one presumes, of the beginning of
history as well.
 Part Two (Chapters 6-7) of the book turns on the same imagery, but
carries the story to the end of Wagner's life by drawing similar
parallels between the composer's writings between 1851 and 1873
(especially "Zukunftsmusik" of 1860, and "Beethoven" of 1870) and
Tristan, and between his latest essays (between 1878 and 1883) and
Parsifal. In his discussion of the middle period (Chapter 6,
1851-1873), Nattiez admits that the sexual imagery of Opera and
Drama disappears. Yet the power relations inscribed in the earlier
works remain, although they are now inverted so that it is the
musician, not the poet, who calls the shots--perhaps, according to
Nattiez, because Wagner's experience in composing the music of the
Ring (through Act II of Siegfried) in the 1850's might have taught
him how much his text was conditioned by music from the start,
regardless of what he had claimed in theory. In Tristan this shift
is incarnated not only in the way the music dominates the text, but
also in the fact that it is Isolde, representing music, who takes the
lead in the drama: it is she who insists on meeting with Tristan, who
invites him to her quarters, who orders the potion to be prepared, who
arranges the tryst in Act II, and so forth. Finally, in the essays
written in the years of working on Parsifal (discussed in Nattiez's
Chapter 7), Wagner returns to his earlier sexual metaphor: ". . . as I
have explained in figurative terms elsewhere, the poet's task can be
described as the male principle, while the music, by contrast, is the
female principle in a union that aims to create the greatest synthesis
of the arts. . . ."
 Nattiez deserves high praise for his careful reading of Wagner's
writings, especially those of the 1848-51 period, and for his
imaginative reading of the Ring in the light of both the sexualized
metaphors of the theoretical works and of Wagner's own life
experience. To cite a single example: Nattiez devotes a short chapter
to the 1850 scenario, Wieland der Schmied, briefly intended for the
Paris Opera, but never set to music. He draws convincing parallels,
on the one hand, between the dramatic situation in Wieland and
Wagner and his writings, and on the other, between Wieland and
Siegfried. The male artisan-poet (Wieland), crippled and tormented
by a greedy oppressor (Neiding), but driven on by his Need (Noth) and
inspired by the swan-maiden who is to be his wife, invents something
utterly new (wings) and thus flies aloft to be with his bride, after
which he exacts deadly vengeance on Neiding and his court. As Nattiez
suggests, it is difficult not to see here a confluence of the real
Wagner, oppressed in Paris (in his own view) by Meyerbeer, and his
theoretical musings about the male poet and the female musician, all
wrapped into a single (and, it must be admitted, crudely
autobiographical) dramatic scenario. The same formula is imported
into Siegfried, where Siegfried, Mime, Brunnhilde, "Noth," and the
sword play the same roles as Wieland, Neiding, Schwanhilde, "Noth,"
and the wings. Nattiez's thesis that the Ring is a metaphorical
reenactment of the history of music (a la Wagner) thus makes certain
aspects of Siegfried begin to make more sense, although their
autobiographical resonance now makes them seem--to me, at least--even
more odious than before: the thinly veiled anti-Semitic caricature of
Mime, the violence of Siegfried's forging of the sword, and his murder
 At the same time, there are aspects of Nattiez's interpretation of the Ring that simply do not compute. To understand the Rhinedaughters as metaphorical depictions of poetry, music, and dance; the original state of the world as involving the unity of these three arts; Alberich, Mime and Hagen as embodiments of all that was to Wagner reprehensible in 1830's and 1840's opera; Siegfried's forging of the sword as a triumphant act of creativity; his vanquishing of Mime as the victory of his brand of opera over that of Meyerbeer; and his union with Brunnhilde as the establishment of the new artistic order--all this is plausible, and deftly argued. But such an interpretation leaves out enormous chunks of the Ring, and leaves us with many nagging questions. What do we do with Wotan, who is hardly even mentioned, or with Siegmund and Sieglinde? What do we do with the central dramatic motif of Wotan's renunciation of power? If Siegfried represents poetry and Brunnhilde music, why is Siegfried so stupid and inarticulate, and why does Brunnhilde have to take years to teach him her runic wisdom (which, one presumes, is in "male" spoken language, not the "female" language of "pure feeling," or music)? And does it make sense to turn Gutrune, who supposedly seduces Siegfried with the wiles of vapid French comic opera, into perhaps the central character of Gotterdammerung, rather than seeing her as a pathetic dupe whose worst sin is merely passive collusion in an evil plot? These are serious questions that I have as yet been unable to answer to my own satisfaction. At the same time, much of Nattiez's virtuosic tying together of Wagner's theories and the drama seems intuitively right. His interpretation is already deeply embedded in my own reception history of the Ring, and it has woven a rich new strand into my experience of the cycle.
 Nattiez is unable to bring together theory and drama quite so closely in Part Two of the book, simply because Wagner retreated from his sexualized metaphor after the writings of the early 1850's. But there is nevertheless much of value here. Chapter Five, "Wagnerian Androgyny and Its Romantic Counterpart," is one of the strongest chapters in the book. Always the scholar, Nattiez reconstructs a whole literature on androgyny from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, from works on art history, medicine, philosophy and theology, as well as fiction and poetry. Much of this literature envisions a new social order based on either the equality of the sexes or the transcendence of sexual difference: for example, Schlegel's comment in the essay "Uber die diotima" of 1795 that "The goal to which the human race should aspire is the progressive reintegration of the sexes" (quoted on p. 114), or the well-known love-and-death imagery of Novalis (p. 116). A sampling of such writing places Wagner's sexualized language in a broader cultural context, and it strengthens Nattiez's argument that the notion of overcoming sexual difference, if not actual androgyny, is central to the Ring, Tristan, and Parsifal. And if his readings of Tristan and Parsifal seem somewhat contrived, since their relation to theory is murkier, they nevertheless round out his narrative of the relation of Wagner's theory and art by offering many new insights.
 By the end of Part Two, Nattiez has pursued the theme of "androgyny" in Wagner's writings and operas from 1848 to his death, and he has argued his two principal theses in detail. So the book should be over, should it not? Yet such is hardly the case: its longest and most substantial part--fully 40 percent of the total length--still remains. Why? The purpose of this extended Part Three, "Wagner and Androgynous Hermeneutics," which includes five chapters and an Epilogue, is not clear in the Preface, and it only gradually makes itself apparent as one reads it. At first it seems as though the final, longish section is borne of a certain defensiveness on Nattiez's part that his "historico-genetic approach" in Parts I and II might be deemed insufficient; indeed, he indicates as much at the end of Part II (p. 178): suppose that "factual evidence and explicit statements" are not enough? Suppose that, dealing as he does with androgyny and myth, someone demands that he take into account the workings of the unconscious?
 Ostensibly to head off such criticism, he launches into a full-blown Freudian analysis of Wagner and his family--an analysis that, it must be admitted, creates a yawning chasm between Parts Two and Three, and leaves the reader to his or her own devices as to figuring out how this discussion and the chapters that follow will relate to what has been said so far. But what gradually emerges in these chapters is not merely a methodological defensiveness. It is in fact a full-fledged claim on the part of Nattiez of an objective validity, and demonstrable truth value for his "philological, historico-genetic method" of interpretation. Against the factual security of his own method he sees the interpretive systems that he examines in successive chapters of Part Three--Freudian psychology in Chapter Eight, Jungian psychology in Chapter Nine, Levi-Straussian structuralism in Chapter Ten, Marxist theory in Chapter Eleven, and post-structuralism and deconstruction in Chapter Twelve--as denying the possibility of such objective validity. The baleful refrain that underlies all these chapters is--and here I cite Nattiez's condemnation of Roland Barthes, although he says essentially the same thing about most of the writers that he evaluates: "there is no longer a hierarchy of value or validity between the commentaries on a text: one can say whatever one wants" (p. 264; emphasis mine). Or compare his dismissal of Freud: "Freudian exegesis provided the paradigm for later hermeneutics, all of which maintains that they can 'establish' that what is said is what is not said, and that I say the opposite of what I say. When I love my mother, I hate my father, but at the same time as hating him, I love him because, being a man, I am also a woman" (pp. 217-18).
 And what is the ultimate foundation of all this "freedom of interpretation"? Who would have guessed? It is nothing other than androgyny itself. It is "sexual ambivalence": "There is femininity in masculinity, and masculinity in femininity. When I say 'white, I mean 'black'" (p. 217). It is an "ideological grounding in androgyny" (p. 217) that leads Nattiez to consign not only Freud, but also Jung, Levi-Strauss, contemporary Marxists, Barthes, and Derrida, structuralists and post-structuralists, totalizers and anti-totalizers alike, all to the trash-heap of interpreters who claim that "One can certainly say what one wants" (p. 266).
 At this point the reader cannot help but feeling betrayed. ("Verrat!" shrieks Brunnhilde upon seeing Siegfried in Gunther's form.) Throughout Parts One and Two, we are encouraged to believe in androgyny, to see it as the glue that ties together the theoretical and artistic halves of the Wagnerian oeuvre, to understand it as a social and philosophical, even theological symbol that has deep roots in Western culture. Certainly Wagner himself was invested in the nineteenth-century philosophy that found the highest ethical value in transcending sexual difference. Then without warning, without even a hint of what is to come, as we cross the threshhold of the twentieth century, we gradually discover that androgyny is the great villain of our time, the root of all interpretive evil.
 The ploy has the same effect as Nattiez's use of the Levi-Strauss quotation cited at the beginning of this review. For we as readers learn, at the very end of the chapter on Levi-Strauss, that this quotation is not by the anthropologist at all, but by Wagner! The reason for this deception, according to Nattiez, is that it was the most eloquent possible way "of showing that Wagner was not a precursor of structuralism but that Levi-Strauss is a late Romantic" (p. 253). For subjecting us to this clever ruse Nattiez asks our forgiveness, and I, for one, happily grant it. But I am more concerned when I experience a similar ploy--and one that is surely not intentional on the part of the author--on the global scale of the book: the voice that I thought I was reading transforms into another voice entirely. The voice that stakes its claim for meaning, value and validity in Parts One and Two does so by demonstrating androgyny in the works of Wagner. But this voice turns, without ever saying so, into a voice that condemns androgyny by positing it as the intellectual foundation of all interpretive strategies that putatively destroy meaning, value, and validity altogether. Nattiez thus calls his own voice into question and leaves the reader wondering which voice to trust. All would be well if he were to address this volte face straight on, and suggest explicitly that what was a powerful symbol in the nineteenth century has been subverted and turned to what he sees as destructive ends in the twentieth century. But his failure to do so forces us as readers to make the switch ourselves, and it ultimately leaves us without a stable authorial voice upon which we can rely. In the process, we wonder also whether Nattiez's dogged defense of the "objective truth" that he has revealed, as well as his endless attacks on freedom of interpretation, might in fact undermine his whole ongoing semiotic project, which has always relied on a certain fluidity of signifier and signified to make its way in the world.
2. I will continue to use the word "androgyny" in direct
quotations and in situations where Nattiez himself would use
it, despite the reservations noted above. If both here and
in the book one substitutes "the symbolic relationship of,
and/or union of the sexes" for "androgyny," one will come
close to his meaning.
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3. Paul Robinson rightly questions whether such a state of
affairs in any sense represents androgyny and the
transcendence of sexual difference, or whether it in fact
perpetuates male domination in its most virulent form. See
his review, pp. 81-82.
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4. Quoted by Nattiez (p. 164) from Wagner's 1879 essay, "On
Opera Poetry and Composition in Particular."
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5. Quoted by Nattiez (p. 164) from Wagner's 1879 essay, "On
Poetry and Composition."
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6. Nattiez's book can be read profitably in conjunction with
Marc A. Weiner's Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic
Imagination (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press,
1995). Both books tie Wagner's writings (letters as well as
theoretical essays) convincingly to his dramatic works, and
both make much of the anti-Semitic caricatures of Alberich
and Mime (though Weiner does so in far greater detail). But
whereas Nattiez shies away from the ethical implications of
such connections, Weiner foregrounds them.
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