In her book Richard Wagner’s Women Eva Rieger examines the presentation of feminine-gendered qualities in both female and male characters in Wagner’s operas. Her focus is on negatively construed feminine qualities, but in this TLS review I suggest that feminine characters like Isolde, Brünnhilde, and the ‘feminine’ figure of Hans Sachs all occupy the Lacanian position of the hysterical subject who sees that the irresolvable lack in their own character is reflected by the inconsistency of the big Other. Their rejection of the big Other’s limited range of ideological scripts makes them truly feminist characters, whose proposed solutions to the deadlock of modern sexual relations are so radical that we perpetually choose to cover them over with fantasies.
Author photo of the day - From Ethel Smyth's Impressions That Remained.
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