The large historical transformation from a culture of work and achievement to one of consumption and pleasure, in progressively extreme and democratically available forms, finds its expression in the finest details of fictional, literary artistry. Thomas Mann’s development of the psychological romance, the modern psychomachia, of narration amid the personae of character, narrator (and what kind of narrator), implicated author, and a newly activated and yet indulgently consuming reader, participates in a widespread game of aesthetic interpellation that leads to what contemporary theorists such as Slavoj Žižek and Robert Pfaller term the interpassive subject. As we have seen in Mann’s career and our epoch, the creative images of voice, the critical terms of self-narration, mark the phases of this movement from literature as traditionally understood to the apocalyptic expenditure of all cultural capital without return, either explosively or by playing out the string.
Sovereign Dispossession: On Thomas Mann and the Critical Fate of the Modern Narrator
Daniel T. O’Hara is Emeritus Professor of English and Inaugural Mellon Term Professor of Humanities at Temple University, and the author of nine books, including Vir-ginia Woolf and the Modern Sublime (2015). He is the editor or coeditor of six other books, including A William V. Spanos Reader: Humanistic Criticism and the Secular Imperative (2015).
Daniel T. O’Hara; Sovereign Dispossession: On Thomas Mann and the Critical Fate of the Modern Narrator. boundary 2 1 May 2020; 47 (2): 29–48. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-8193220
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