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Culture without the Cult

ENGL 359.401
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective of the Standard Major

         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 the cultivated man whose mark of cultivation is having overcome religion’s  superstitions.   With the demise of traditional religion and traditional morality, terms that were once shared by aesthetics and ethics—beauty, order, balance—are used by thinking people only with irony.   Art becomes the merely chic;  spiritual intensity becomes shrill;  morality becomes the restraints of a well-upholstered 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 Genealogy of Morals.  The course will culminate in Mann's Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus.  (Mann’s books being long, the student would be well advised to get started reading them over the summer, in the translation by John Woods.  Besides, a book is better the second time through.)

 

 

         2 short papers; one longer final paper; consistent and informed class preparation.