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WL Honours Thesis Myth and Modernity: Orphic Traces in Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain

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This paper is a study of the influence and reception of the mythological tropes of descent and return as seen in Thomas Mann’s 1924 novel, The Magic Mountain and, more broadly, within the context of the early twentieth-century modernity. Making reference to Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Strauss, and Modris Eksteins, it draws connections between Castorp’s desire-driven journey of descent and Germany’s own inwards turn. Moreover, by analyzing the traces of the Orphic myth noticeable in the novel and examining the importance of Orpheus myth to modernist sensibilities, this paper argues that despite the promise of unity the novel appears to signal, Castorp’s inability to retain his vision reveals Mann’s novel as a satirical commentary not only on the individual’s fragmentation but, significantly, on the cultural atomization of early twentieth century Germany.
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