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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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Conclusion 147


Conclusion Das Glück besteht darin, zu leben wie alle Welt und doch wie kein anderer zu sein. — Simone de Beauvoir, 1908–1986 This book has discussed seven canonical early to mid-twentieth-century German novels in which there is sustained and nuanced treatment of happi- ness as a subject of existential, socio-political and metaphysical speculation. (Many more layers are dispersed throughout the respective narratives). I have demonstrated not only how personal and communal forms of hap- piness are perceived in significant literary works, but equally where they are sought, found and performed. The first approach has entailed critical readings of the text corpus both in the light of autobiographical ref lec- tions on Glück and within the larger context of cross-cultural happiness discourse. At the same time, I have explored the extent to which the nar- ratives under review are concerned with the coordinates of space (Raum) as a physical, mental, spiritual, cultural or territorial entity. I have done so with particular reference to Bachelard’s and Foucault’s reading of space as the sites of felicitous or infelicitous experience. “Es gibt Gott sei Dank viele Arten von Glück. Und du sollst sehen, wir werden schon etwas finden für dich”1 (Thank goodness there are many kinds of happiness. We will certainly find one for you, just you see), exclaims Frau von Briest reassuringly to her “fallen” daughter in Theodor Fontane’s Ef fi Briest (1895). This notion of pluralistic relativism upon which Fontane had already ref lected in his draft...

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