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Spaces for Happiness in the Twentieth-Century German Novel

Mann, Kafka, Hesse, Jünger

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Alan Corkhill

This book offers an in-depth study of the rich tapestry of happiness discourses in well-known philosophical novels by Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse and Ernst Jünger, published between 1922 and 1949. The study is prompted, in part, by an awareness that despite the interdisciplinarity of happiness research, Western literary scholarship has paid scant attention to fictionalized constructs of happiness. Each of the four chapters uses extended textual analysis to explore the sites in which happiness ( Glück) and serenity ( Heiterkeit) are sought, experienced, narrated, reflected upon and enacted. The author theorizes, with particular reference to Bachelard and Foucault, the interfaces between interior and exterior spaces and states of well-being. In addition to providing new interpretive perspectives on the canonical novels themselves, the book makes a significant contribution to a broader history of the idea of happiness through the appraisal of key intellectual cross-currents and traditions, both Western and Eastern, underpinning the novelists’ varied and nuanced conceptualizations and aesthetic representations of happiness.

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Introduction 1

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1 more dynamic and expressive than the language of epic description; that is to say, the facial and gestural externalizations of happy and sad states such as the radiant smile, the glowing countenance or the furrowed brow. They require dif fering interpretive responses from production to production, depending on the particular script or stage directions. Whereas the selected novels of the older generation of writers, nota- bly Mann’s (Chapter One) and Hesse’s (Chapter Three), investigate the interfaces and continuities between both nineteenth-century epistemolo- gies and sociologies of happiness and modernist accretions to the happi- ness debate, the “unhappiness” tropes of Kafka’s two angst-filled novels examined in Chapter Two are linked almost exclusively to the intensifying existential(-ist) crisis of a fragmented spiritual identity peculiar to the new millennium. And for its part, Jünger’s Heliopolis, treated in Chapter Four, engages with dystopian facets of (un-)happiness that are more aligned to Interwar socio-cultural and ideological directions than to nineteenth- century intellectual practices. Interwoven with my textual readings are critical considerations of key intellectual inf luences discernible in each narrative. Quite apart from the inf luences that are specific to each author and are ref lected upon in the book’s four main chapters, I identify as a common denominator a marked fascination with, if not an unconditional embrace of Eastern hap- piness philosophies as a source of inspiration for alternative ways of living. Whereas the active pursuit of happiness, first enshrined in the preamble to the American Declaration of Independence of...

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