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Temptations of Faust

Temptations of Faust: The Logic of Fascism and Postmodern Archaeologies of Modernity

Evelyn Cobley
Copyright Date: 2002
https://doi.org/10.3138/9781442680449
Pages: 312
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442680449
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  • Book Info
    Temptations of Faust
    Book Description:

    A theoretical analysis of the conceptual paradigms that allowed German fascism, at once continuous and discontinuous with the emancipatory ambitions of modernity, to emerge in a highly civilized nation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8044-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Note on Translations
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    The Holocaust remains for many of us the incomprehensible historical event of the twentieth century, confirming the acute suspicion that the forward march of civilization had generated a dark underside to which the confident self-understanding of modernity chose to remain more or less blind. The resurgence of barbarism in a nation celebrated for its cultural achievements dealt a severe blow to the humanist assumption that aesthetic sensitivity and philosophical idealism go hand in hand with an exemplary commitment to private morality and public justice. Historians, sociologists, political scientists, and psychologists have devoted extensive scholarship both to Hitlerʹs rise to power...

  7. Part One Deconstructions of Modernity

    • Chapter 1 Neo-Romantic Roots of German Fascism
      (pp. 11-55)

      One of the most distinctive conditions that made the emergence of German National Socialism possible was an anti-liberal atmosphere manifesting itself throughout Europe. Although I will be arguing with Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno in theirDialectic of Enlightenment(1947) that the dominant assumptions of the enlightenment tradition showed themselves to have been complicit with ʹAuschwitz,ʹ¹ it is also incontrovertibly the case that the Holocaust was not the planned outcome of liberal-humanist reason. While the actual strategies of the Nazis may have been calculated and rational, the rhetoric of fascism relied on the explicit rejection of the rational self-understanding...

    • Chapter 2 Organic Unity and the Privileging of Reason: Hegel and Beethoven
      (pp. 56-106)

      The incredulity attaching to the spectacle of a civilized nation perpetrating crimes against humanity whose genocidal intensity continues to appal us suggests that fascism crept up unawares on an unsuspecting modernity. Why did Germany and the West in general not read the signals? It seems in retrospect apparent that the possibility of fascism must have been implicit in the assumptions of modernity itself. Instead of dismissing the Nazi phenomenon as an inexplicable aberration from the progressive narrative of the Enlightenment, we need to probe not only beyond the GermanSonderwegtheory but also beyond the neo-Romantic explanation. Although the volkish...

    • Chapter 3 Fascist Undercurrents: Appeals to Authenticity and the Privileging of Reason
      (pp. 107-152)

      So far I have tried to link explanations for the emergence of fascism to assumptions deeply embedded in modernity. Through his incorporation of Adornoʹs ideological critique of tonal music, Mann complements the fairly standard thesis that Hitler successfully tapped into ʹirrationalʹ neo-Romantic yearnings with the more audacious suggestion that the privileging of reason in German idealism ought to be scrutinized for equally suspect ʹtotalizingʹ tendencies. What the Mann- Adorno ʹcollaborationʹ inDoctor Faustusalerts us to is that the emergence of German National Socialism confronts us, in unmistakable terms, with the possibility that the irrational and the rational are mutually...

  8. Part Two Postmodernity and Fascism

    • Chapter 4 Breakthrough into Atonality (or Postmodernism)
      (pp. 155-183)

      If the conditions that allowed Nazism to emerge can broadly speaking be associated with the neo-Romantic yearnings isolated in MosseʹsThe Crisis of German Ideologyand with the rationalizing tendencies identified by Bauman inModernity and the Holocaust, we may be tempted to think that the fascist episode in European history is safely behind us. Once postmodern archaeologies of modernity have foregrounded modernityʹs blindness to its own violence, so the argument might run, we postmodernists are now so highly self-conscious of the dark undersides of the Enlightenment narrative that we can close the chapter on German National Socialism. Has Derrida...

    • Chapter 5 Fascism and Atonality (or Postmodern Play)
      (pp. 184-216)

      If Leverkühnʹs breakthrough into atonality presents itself as the successful transcendence of a modernity which volkish intellectuals had decried as culturally sterile, then we need to understand how such emancipatory aspirations produced or legitimated the emergence of a regime bent on murdering its own citizens. Is it possible that the demystification of the illusions of modernity created a counter-discourse which was in turn blind to its own complicity with violence? Althoug Zeitblom cannot help but admire Leverkühnʹs daring aesthetic innovations, he is simultaneously horrified by the effects of transgressive compositions the ultimate triumph of which will be the tragic masterpiece...

    • Chapter 6 Decentred Totalities: Fascism, Capitalism, Postmodernism
      (pp. 217-272)

      My analysis ofDoctor Faustusas a parable of fascism is increasingly meant to draw attention to the disturbing recognition of German National Socialism as a sinister possibility implicit in postmodern critiques of modernity, critiques expressing a concern with a radically new way of conceptualizing the relationship between subject and object. Responsive to the currents of the times, Mann sensed that Adornoʹs negative dialectics contained insights into a radical cognitive shift in our cultural self-understanding whose laudable ambitions and unfortunate consequences found their historical expression in Germany even before our conceptual mapping of the emergent dominant had properly begun. In...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 273-284)
  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 285-292)
  11. Index
    (pp. 293-305)