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.