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.

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