Art and Its Uses in Thomas Mann's 'Felix Krull'

Art and Its Uses in Thomas Mann's 'Felix Krull'

Ernest Schonfield
Volume: 70
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 202
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32b997
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  • Book Info
    Art and Its Uses in Thomas Mann's 'Felix Krull'
    Book Description:

    The turn of the twentieth century was a time of identity crisis for the upper and middle classes, one in which increased social mobility caused the blurring of traditional boundaries and created a need for reference works such as the British Who's Who (1897). At the same time, the rise of a new leisure industry and an increase in international travel led to a boom period for confidence men, who frequently operated in hotels and holiday resorts. Thomas Mann's "Felix Krull", written between 1910-13 and continued (though never completed) in 1951-54, uses contemporary accounts of these figures as a starting-point from which to explore the aesthetics of society. The early Krull marks an important stage in Mann's development in a number of respects.In writing it, Mann acquired a more flexible conception of identity and a new understanding of the relation between artist and public. Krull also signals a deeper engagement with Goethe and a shift in Mann's work towards a more open treatment of sexuality. The novel presents art as being central to the development of the individual and to social interaction. While Krull is nominally a confidence man, he is more of a performance artist, a purveyor of beauty who relies upon the complicity of his audience. The later Krull takes up where Mann left off and continues the justification of art as an essential human activity. This study draws upon unpublished material in order to provide a comprehensive reading of "Felix Krull". It examines the novel within the context of Mann's work as a whole, and, in doing so, it seeks to demonstrate the remarkable continuity of Mann's creative achievement.

    eISBN: 978-1-78188-072-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. ix-ix)
    E. S.
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. x-x)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    In his study The Age of Empire, Eric Hobsbawm describes the period between 1875 and 1914 as a time of profound identity crisis for the upper and middle classes, one in which social mobility reached unprecedented levels.¹ As a result, there arose a confusion about ‘who was who’, and it was in this period that reference volumes about persons of status in the nation, such as the British Who’s Who (1897), first appeared.² The growth of the modern city added to the confusion about identity. As Georg Simmel remarked in his essay ‘Die Großstädte und das Geistesleben’ (1903), the dominance...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Art and the Notation of Identity
    (pp. 9-66)

    In this chapter I will argue that the early work on Felix Krull represents a creative watershed in Mann’s career. It marks the moment when Mann realized that he could imaginatively expand his identity to the extent that he could identify with persons and characters far removed from his own experience and disposition. I will seek to show that Felix Krull offers a creatively adaptable model of identity, and that it presents art and aesthetics as being central to the development of the individual subject.

    The debate about the formation and cultivation of the self goes back to classical antiquity;...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Art and the Notation of Community
    (pp. 67-130)

    Much has been written about the structural dichotomy of Bürger and Künstler in the early works of Thomas Mann. In this early phase, the Künstler, as the representative of Geist, finds himself isolated from, and opposed to, the coarse realities of bourgeois life (Leben); and the possibility of conciliation between these two spheres appears remote. By the time Mann came to write the autobiographical Tonio Kröger (1903), however, he was beginning to realize that this opposition was too simplistic, and that a person could contain both types within himself. Tonio Kröger is both artist and ‘verirrter Bürger’ (VIII, 305), torn...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Narrative Performance in Felix Krull
    (pp. 131-184)

    So far I have considered Felix Krull thematically. However, it is only possible to assess the full effect and scope of the novel by examining how it operates on a stylistic level. I therefore intend to analyse the novel from the point of view of technique, in order to show how the novel’s formal elements reinforce its exploration of art’s contribution to both individual identity and community. Formally, the most remarkable aspect of Krull is the way in which the narrator continually pauses to address the reader. At the heart of this chapter is therefore section (iv), which analyses the...

  10. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 185-188)

    The main argument of this book is that, in Felix Krull, art and aesthetics are shown to be central to the life of the mind and to the life of society. The Müller-Rosé episode offers a paradigm of how art works: not as an imposed illusion, but as a mutually agreed, deliberate pretence.¹ The crucial point of this episode is that art is not a deception, but an imaginative exchange which relies upon an intersubjective arrangement. Müller-Rosé requires the ‘stillschweigende[s] Einverständnis’ (294) of his audience in order to succeed. Mann, like Coleridge, is advocating a willing suspension of disbelief,² in...

  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 189-198)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 199-202)