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Spaces for Happiness in the Twentieth-Century German Novel

Mann, Kafka, Hesse, Jünger


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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CHAPTER FOUR - Ernst Jünger: The Technologization of Happiness in Heliopolis (1949) 119


Chapter Four Ernst Jünger: The Technologization of Happiness in Heliopolis (1949) Happiness is obsolete: uneconomic — Theodor Adorno, 1903–1969 Historical Preamble: Enforced Happiness History is testimony to happiness agendas that have ranged from the eclecti- cally non-prescriptive to the mainly prescriptive. A humanistic voluntarism underpinned the Aristotelian teaching that in order to lead the “good life” in the widest sense one needed to foster and promote civic virtues. However, since the Enlightenment the course of Western history has demonstrated the inhumanity of certain ideological models of regimented happiness in their practical application, even if the precepts on which they were based and the intentions behind them were essentially humanistic. For instance, despite the noble and egalitarian sentiments underpinning the right to the pursuit of happiness doctrine enshrined in the United States Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jef ferson’s (1743–1826) well-meaning assertion in his last composed letter of 26 June 1826, “the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favoured few to ride them,”1 would inevitably exclude those who failed by dint of class, gender, race and economic circumstances to realize the myth of the American Dream in which the right-to-happiness principle was firmly anchored. 120 Chapter Four The discrepancy between rhetoric and sobering reality was no more in evidence than during one of the defining moments of European his- tory, the French Revolution. The new republican constitution contained the stirring words “le but de la société est le bonheur commun...

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