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Expression and Adorno's Avant-Garde: The Composer in Doktor Faustus (Difference Between the Concept of Artistic Expression in the Philosophy of Theodor W. Adorno and Thomas Mann's Novel Doktor Faustus)

The German Quarterly 2008, Spring, 81, 2

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Thomas Mann prefaces Die Entstehung des Doktor Faustus: Roman eines Romans (1949) with an excerpt from Goethe's Dichtung und Wahrheit. Here, Goethe contends that works having an immediate impact on their contemporary cultures and works treating issues of national culture become ineffective as time passes. His solution: "Deshalb ist es billig, ihnen [solchen Arbeiten] einen historischen Wert zu verschaffen, indem man sich uber ihre Entstehung mit wohlwollenden Kennern unterhalt" (qtd. in Mann, Entstehung 145). Initiating a discourse about a work, Goethe says, will endow it with historical value. By beginning his account with this quotation, Mann suggests that Doktor Faustus (1947) runs the risk of being forgotten, a risk that legitimizes the need for a novel about the genesis of his novel. Theodor W. Adorno is a prominent figure in this partial autobiography of the years Mann spent writing Doktor Faustus in Los Angeles. In fact, Die Entstehung des Doktor Faustus makes it hard to overestimate Adorno's importance to Doktor Faustus. Finding himself unable to take on his challenging project completely on his own, Mann is glad to find this other exiled intellectual living just up the street: "Der Helfer, Ratgeber, teilnehmende Instruktor wurde gefunden,--nach seiner ausnehmenden Beschlagenheit im Fachlichen und seinem geistigen Rang genau der Richtige" (172). Mann needs Adorno for his knowledge of music, in particular. He not only reads Adorno's books, but also meets with him regularly to discuss specific passages from Doktor Faustus. Several of the major ideas that Adorno formulates in his Philosophie der neuen Musik, which he brought to Mann in manuscript form at this time, resurface in Mann's text. It is clear, then, that a good portion of the theoretical commentary on music in Doktor Faustus comes from Adorno. However, the philosophies of music articulated in the novel often part ways with Adorno's. One especially important divergence concerns the role of the composer in modern music. Adorno claims that composers' subjective contributions are far less important than in the past. The historical development of music, he asserts, leaves little or no room for composers to make subjective decisions or to express subjective ideas. Mann's novel, in contrast, emphasizes the subjective aspect of expression, even where Adorno denies its possibility most vehemently: with regard to Arnold Schonberg's method of twelve-tone composition. For both Mann and Adorno, then, inquiring into the status of the modern composer entails inquiring into the nature of artistic expression. In this article, I describe how Mann's Doktor Faustus maintains a rather traditional view of artistic expression despite accepting some of Adorno's modern ideas. This resistance to Adorno, I argue, is consistent with both Mann's and Schonberg's views of what artists do. (1)

Expression and Adorno's Avant-Garde: The Composer in Doktor Faustus (Difference Between the Concept of Artistic Expression in the Philosophy of Theodor W. Adorno and Thomas Mann's Novel Doktor Faustus)
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  • Categorie: Sociale wetenschappen
  • Publicatiedatum: 22-03-2008
  • Uitgever: American Association of Teachers of German
  • Tekstlengte: 25 pagina's
  • Taal: Engels
  • Vereisten: Om dit boek te bekijken moet je een iOS apparaat hebben met iBooks 1.3.1 of nieuwer en iOS 4.3.3 of nieuwer of een Mac met iBooks 1.0 of nieuwer en OS X 10.9 of nieuwer.


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