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Opera, Sex and Other Vital Matters

Opera, Sex, and Other Vital Matters gathers both classic and never-before-published essays from one of the leading stylists in contemporary American letters, and one of our more revered public intellectuals, Paul Robinson. Diverse and elegant, the essays in this new collection showcase the sly wit and lightly worn erudition of their author. Each celebrates art and the flesh, directing us to the twin ecstasies of music and eros.

The essays on opera gathered here explore how masterpieces like Fidelio and The Magic Flute reflect the intellectual currents of their day. Be it the work of Verdi or Mozart, Wagner or Strauss, Robinson compels us to search for meaning not just in the lyrics of opera but also in the music. In melody, not libretto, we are more likely to discern key historical complexities and appreciate the way opera transcends language and time. The essays on sexuality, meanwhile, are ruminative, funny, and even moving. At one moment, Robinson measures whether homosexuality is the result of destiny or free choice. In another, he shares a touching exchange of letters with a gay student in the process of coming out. The final essays that encompass "other vital matters" find Robinson at his most incisive. Whether defending Freud as the most influential thinker of the twentieth century, attacking the dreaded use of semicolons, reflecting on his own mortality, or even meditating on the nature of cats, Sex, Opera, and Other Vital Matters is an eclectic work that will appeal to any reader interested in the continuing relevance of ideas to life.

Read Robinson’s essay The Philosophy of Punctuation.

332 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2002

Gay and Lesbian Studies

Gender and Sexuality

Music: General Music

Table of Contents

A Symposium on Opera and Ideas
2. Reading Libretti and Misreading Opera
3. The Musical Enlightenment: Haydn’s Creation and Mozart’s Magic Flute
4. Fidelio and the French Revolution
5. Verdi’s Fathers and Daughters
6. Is Aida an Orientalist Opera?
7. The Wagner Problem
8. Richard Strauss, Ambivalent Modernist
9. The Opera Queen: A Voice from the Closet
10. Homosexuality: Choice or Destiny?
11. Sex Studies and Sex Books: Four Reviews
12. For the Love of Big Brother: The Sexual Politics of Nineteen Eighty-Four
13. "Dear Paul": An Exchange between Student and Teacher
14. Three Essays on Freud
Freud under Siege
Freud and the Feminists
Freud and Homosexuality
15. H. Stuart Hughes and Intellectual History
16. Three Essays on Writing
Why Write?
Lost Causes
The Philosophy of Punctuation
17. Cats
Epilogue: My Afterlife

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