Thomas Mann (1875–1955)

  • Hans Reiss


Probably no other twentieth-century writer has conveyed the central ambiguity of the artist’s place in the modern world as forcefully as Thomas Mann. Three of his major works, Tonio Kröger (1903), Der Tod in Venedig [Death in Venice] (1912) and Doktor Faustus (1947) have an artist as hero while in others, such as Buddenbrooks (1901), Königliche Hoheit [Royal Highness] (1909), Die Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull [Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man] (1954) and Joseph and seine Brüder [Joseph and his Brethren] (1933–43), the hero is a man of artistic sensibility who symbolises artistic aspirations. Indeed, from his earliest stories onward the re­lationship between artistic sensibility and day-to-day bourgeois reality, between intellect and life, mind and nature, is a central, if not the central, theme.


German Nation Modern Artist German Culture Weimar Republic Artistic Sensibility 
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  1. 1.
    Cf. R. A. Nichols, .Nietzsche and the Early Work of Thomas Mann Berkeley and Los Angeles 1955Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    H. Peter Pütz, Kunst und Künstlerexistenz bei .Nietzsche und Thomas Mann Bonn, 1963, for a discussion of Nietzsche’s influence on Thomas Mann;Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    cf. also T. J. Reed, Thomas Mann: The Uses of Tradition Oxford, 1974, passim.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ernst Nündel, Thomas Manns Kunsttheorie Bonn, 1972, takes the view that Mann’s conception of art is based on a series of antitheses of that kind and is best understood in these terms. I prefer not to follow this approach as I do not find it fruitful although Nündel’s treatise is otherwise helpful in many ways.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    ‘Notebook No. 9 p. 42’, published in Thomas Mann,. Notizen, ed. Hans Wysling, Heidelberg, 1973, p. 40.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    I am greatly indebted to the perceptive analysis by Elizabeth M. Wilkinson (ed.) in the Introduction to Thomas Mann: Tonio Kröger, Oxford, 1943.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Quoted by Paul Scherrer in ‘Vornehmheit, Illusion und Wirklichkeit’, Blätter der Thomas Mann-Gesellschaft 1, Zurich, 1958, p. 5.Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Hans Wysling, Thomas Mann heute Berne and Munich, 1976, pp. 21ff.Google Scholar
  9. 19.
    Hans Wysling ‘Die Fragmente zur Fürstennovelle’, Paul Scherrer and Hans Wysling, Thomas Mann Studien, 1, Berne and Munich, 1967, pp. 99f.Google Scholar
  10. 21.
    Einführung in den Zauberberg [Introduction to the Magic Mountain] (1939); TM, xi, p. 608. It also occurs in a letter to Hermann Hesse, 25 November 1947; Thomas Mann-Hermann Hesse Briefwechsel ed. Anni Carlson, Frankfurt/Main, 1968, pp. 141f.Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    Cf. Reinhard Baumgart Das Ironische und die Ironie in den Werken Thomas Manns, Munich, 1961.Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    This is the title of Erich Heller’s book, The Ironic German 4th ed., London, 1975.Google Scholar
  13. 29.
    For an illuminating analysis of the story cf. the Introduction by T. J. Reed (ed.) to Thomas Mann: Der Tod in Venedig Oxford, 1971, to which I am greatly indebted.Google Scholar
  14. 30.
    Cf. Erwin Rohde, Psyche, Seelencult und Unsterblichkeitsglaube der Griechen, 2 vols Freiburg i. Br., 1890–4 a seminal work about Greek religion; TM., VIII,P. 447.Google Scholar
  15. 31.
    The combination is Thomas Mann’s own, who juxtaposes ‘mythology’ and ‘psychology’, cf. for instance in a letter to Karl Kerényi, 20 February 1941, TM — KK, p. 42. Cf. also the important essay by Hans Wysling, ‘Mythus und Psychologie bei Thomas Mann’, Dokumente und Untersuchungen, Thomas Mann Studien III Berne and Munich, 1974, pp. 167 — 80;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 31.
    cf. also André von Gronicka, ‘Myth plus Psychology. A Style Analysis of Death in Venice’, Germanic Review, XXXI, 1956.Google Scholar
  17. 32.
    This is discussed by Reed, Thomas Mann pp. 156–63; cf. also Herman Meyer, Das Zitat in der Erzählkunst Stuttgart, 2nd ed., 1967, pp. 207–45 for an account of the function of quotations in Thomas Mann’s work.Google Scholar
  18. 36.
    In an unpublished letter to the present author (26 February 1955), for instance, Mann emphasised his profound concern with tradition. It is of course the central theme of Reed’s Thomas Mann. Cf. also Peter Putz (ed.) Thomas Mann und die Tradition, Frankfurt/Main, 1972.Google Scholar
  19. 43.
    Michael Mann ‘Rechenschaft, Rekapitulation. Bewussthaltung. Über Thomas Manns Tagebücher’, Neue Zürcher ,Zeitung 7/8 August 1976, No. 183, p. 37.Google Scholar
  20. 47.
    T. J. Reed, ‘Thomas Mann: The Writer as Historian of his Time’, Modern Language Review LXXI, 1970, p. 82 who also writes: ‘Its prime purpose was not to judge, but to state a truth which he had first experienced and slowly came to understand’ (ibid., p. 94).Google Scholar
  21. 48.
    Cf. for instance Hermann J. Weigand, Thomas Mann’s Novel. Der Zauberberg New York, 1933, Google Scholar
  22. 48.
    E. Hefftrich, Zauberbergmusik Frankfurt/Main, 1976, for a full discussion of the novel.Google Scholar
  23. 49.
    Cf. Gunilla Bergsten, Thomas Manns ‘Doktor Faustus’ Untersuchungen zu den Quellen und zur Struktur, Lund, 1963.Google Scholar
  24. 50.
    Hermann, J. Weigand, ‘Thomas Mann’s Gregorius’, Germanic Review, XXVII, 1952.Google Scholar
  25. 53.
    Cf. Bernhard Blume, Thomas Mann und Goethe Berne, 1949, for a perceptive analysis of Thomas Mann’s view of, and indebtedness to Goethe; cf. also H. Stefan Schultz, ‘Thomas Mann und Goethe’, Thomas Mann und die Tradition.Google Scholar
  26. 63.
    Cf. Ernst Troeltsch, Humanität und Naturrecht in der Weltpolitik Berlin, 1923, reprinted in Deutscher Geist und Westuropa Tübingen, 1925, who contrasted German culture permeated with Romantic thought with the Western intellectual tradition. Thomas Mann reviewed Troeltsch’s lecture in Frankfurter Zeitung 25 December 1923; TM xn, pp. 627–9.Google Scholar
  27. 67.
    There are many books and articles on this subject. An interesting account is given by Kurt Sontheimer, Thomas Mann and die Deutschen, Munich, 1961.Google Scholar
  28. 69.
    Theodore Ziolkowski; ‘Thomas Mann as a Critic of Germany’, Thomas Mann 1875–1955, Princeton, N. J., 1975.Google Scholar
  29. 70.
    TM, xi, pp. 788–93, in an Open Letter to Eduard von Korrodi, the literary editor of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Ein Brief von Thomas Mann) 3 February 1936.Google Scholar
  30. 72.
    Naphta’s model was Georg Lukâcz, a brilliant Hungarian thinker. In Der Zauberberg Mann made use of some of the ideas which Lukâcz developed in his Die Seele and die Formen Berlin, 1911. Lukâcz later on became a leading Marxist theorist. For a general account of some of the ideologies portrayed in Mann’s novels cf. Pierre Paul Sagave, Realité Sociale et Idéologie Religieuse dans les Romans de Thomas Mann Paris, 1954.Google Scholar
  31. 77.
    Cf. Bergsten, Doktor Faustus, for instance; E. M. Butler, The Fortunes of Faust, Cambridge, 1952;Google Scholar
  32. 77.
    Patrick Carnegy, Faust as a Musician London, 1973; but there are many other accounts.Google Scholar
  33. 83.
    Cf. for instance to Otto Grauhoff, 25 October 1888; Briefe an Otto Grauhoff 1894–1928 und Ida Boyd-Ed 1903–1928, ed. Peter de Mendelssohn, Frankfurt/ Main, 1975, p. 106. Cf. also to Irita von Dorn (draft of 28 August 1951): ‘In fact I feel first of all to be a humorist. Humour is an expression of... sympathy which has the intention of doing men some good, to teach them a sense of grace and spread liberating serenity.’ TM —Br. III, p. 220.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Hans Reiss 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Reiss
    • 1
  1. 1.BristolUK

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