Equal parts allegory, realist novel, and anguished epitaph, Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus anatomized the soul of modern Germany and asked how it had been lost. It located the sources of the Nazi calamity at the heart of the high culture Mann both loved and embodied, and in the philosophy and music that seemed its crowning glory. In this multiweek course, participants will read Doctor Faustus in its entirety, discussing its relationship to the musicians and thinkers who shaped it. Excerpts of music by Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, and Schoenberg that influenced Mann’s vision will be referenced, as well as Faustus’s debt to philosophers like Adorno and Nietzsche. What can Mann’s novel tell us about the ambivalence of art, the relation of culture to barbarism, and the tragic contradictions of musical beauty?
Online course each Wednesday, April 7–28, 2021.