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Don Giovanni’s Reasons: Thoughts on a masterpiece

Felicity Baker and Magnus Tessing Schneider

Although Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1787) is the most analysed of all operas, Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto has rarely been studied as a work of poetry in its own right. The author argues that the libretto, rather than perpetuating the conservative religious morality implicit in the story of Don Juan, subjects our culture’s myth of human sexuality to a critical rewriting. Combining poetic close reading with approaches drawn from linguistics, psychoanalysis, anthropology, political theory, legal history, intellectual history, literary history, art history and theatrical performance analysis, she studies the Don Giovanni libretto as a radical political text of the Late Enlightenment, which has lost none of its ability to provoke. The questions it raises concerning the nature of compassion, seduction and violence, and the autonomy and responsibility of the individual, are still highly relevant for us today.

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Bibliographic Information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek

The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available online at

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Cover illustration: Jean-Honoré Fragonard: The Useless Resistance, ca. 1770– 1773. Brush and brown ink, brown and red washes, and white opaque paint (probably oil) over black chalk on paper, 22.9 × 34.8 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 125th Anniversary Acquisition. Gift of George M. Cheston, 2010-210-2. Wikimedia Commons.

ISBN 978-3-631-81796-4 (Print)

E-ISBN 978-3-631-85118-0 (E-PDF)

E-ISBN 978-3-631-85119-7 (EPUB)

E-ISBN 978-3-631-85120-3 (MOBI)

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