Music ETDs

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The present study explores Richard Wagners strategic use of liminal space in identity construction, as a means of navigating difficult life circumstances, gaining prestige as composer/historic figure, and as a method to obtain enduring notoriety for his works. Liminal spaces are a nexus of vulnerability and power. They are a locus of potential as they are a release from structural limitations, however they can also be a site of contested power and susceptibility. Young Wagner as an adolescent and a member of the lower middle class experienced the condition of economic marginality felt by many Germans of that time period. His adaptive strategies toward self-identity building included the necessity of navigating liminal spaces. As Wagner went through an imposed period of exile the knowledge he had previously gained of the utility of such liminal positions was further explored and allowed him increased freedom in both his behaviors and musical techniques. After a period of exile, the composer was reintegrated back into society and found patronship at long last. He then consciously attempted to create a permanent liminal space to house his art in the Bayreuth festival. However, despite his attempts at creating an ideal liminal ritual event, the realities of structure rendered it a liminoid affair.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Music

First Committee Member (Chair)

Chapdelaine, Michael

Second Committee Member

Jacobsen-Bia, Kristina

Third Committee Member

Bashwiner, David Michael




Richard Wagner, Victor Turner, Liminal space, Genius, Ritual, Charisma, Social Identity Theory

Document Type