Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Culture Without the Cult

ENGL 359.401
also offered as: COML 355
TR 1:30-3

This course looks at the reflections of a writer of great intelligence  and imagination  on the tensions and contradictions  of  modern culture.  According to Thomas Mann, the Enlightenment severed  culture  from the cult, that is, the Enlightenment  created a notion of the cultivated man who had no use for religion, in fact, congratulated himself on having overcome religion’s  superstitions.   As a result, the educated classes  declare their  intellectual sophistication  by announcing their disdain for the innocence of religious  belief.  With the demise of traditional religion and traditional morality,  then, terms that were once shared by aesthetics and ethics—beauty, order, balance—are used by thinking people only with irony.   Art descends to the merely chic.   Spiritual  intensity  descends to  violence.  Morality descends to the comforts of a well-upholstered bourgeois home.  In his two greatest books,  The Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus Mann argues that modern cultivated man despises the cult and yet, being homesick for it, attempts to cure that homesickness in either futile or destructive ways. We will read several short works by Kant, The First and Second Discourses of Rousseau, and Nietzsche's The Gay Science.  The course will culminate in Mann's Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus.  

       1 short paper; one long final paper; consistent and informed class preparation.


fulfills requirements