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Nature and natural phenomena in Thomas Mann's fiction

McMullin, Geoffrey Peter; (1997) Nature and natural phenomena in Thomas Mann's fiction. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The thesis examines (a) the way in which Thomas Mann presents natural phenomena in his fiction, the stylistic devices which he uses in their depiction and the symbolic values which he attaches to various natural phenomena at various times; (b) the place of Nature as concept in his fiction, the changing value of the concept and its relation to other major concepts in Thomas Mann's thinking as expressed in his fiction. It seeks to show that Thomas Mann had an outstanding talent for the portrayal of natural phenomena, and that—particularly in the fiction of his early and middle periods, that is, up to and including Der Zauberberg—he made extensive use of this talent and wrote many passages of outstanding descriptive writing, especially of landscape, the sea and dogs. These descriptions are almost all in some sense impressionistic and resonant with symbolic significance. Thomas Mann's depiction of young children is also considered because for Thomas Mann very young children had qualities of spontaneity, malleability and vulnerability which distinguish them from adults and make them closer to nature. In general natural phenomena are presented as beautiful and unthreatening, even when, as with the snow in Der Zauberberg or the sea in Tonio Kröger, they are potentially lethal. They share with young, pre-social, pre-pubertal children the qualities of innocent vitality, of undivided selfhood. Nature as concept has varying connotations. In the early work it tends to be equated by the protagonists with Life, and this is seen as being a ruthless force which is inimical to artistic and moral sensibility. In Buddenbrooks nature is implicitly identified with a more fruitful, life-enhancing sort of love than in his earliest work. Indeed natural phenomena symbolise relief and release from the pain of life, that is from the struggle of commercial and social competition. From Der Zauberberg onwards Nature is increasingly equated with the whole of material creation and is perceived as the essential substrate from which Man with his sovereign attributes of intellect and creativity grows.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Nature and natural phenomena in Thomas Mann's fiction
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Mann, Thomas
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100906
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