Art and its uses : reflections on Thomas Mann's "Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull" and on its place in his work
This thesis is a re-evaluation of Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull in terms of Thomas Mann's thought about art and in the context of the overall trajectory of his creative career. Until now, critics have tended either to dismiss the novel as light-weight or to invest it with mythological import. The interplay of aesthetic and social issues which it explores has barely been considered. This thesis analyses the way in which Felix Krull presents art as being central to the development of the individual and to the coherence of society. Since the novel conjoins Mann's early and later work, it can be seen as indicative of his main preoccupations, allowing us to trace how the earlier artist-problematic is modified by the insight that art is deeply implicated in the forms and allegiances of a society. Felix Krull is a novel which subverts the opposition between artist and public in a multiplicity of ways. The thesis contains three main thematic sections. The first, 'Art and the notation of identity', studies the involvement of art in the articulation and cultivation of the self, with reference to processes of identity formation and development. The second section, 'Art and the notation of community', adopts a socio-anthropological perspective to demonstrate that social interaction in Felix Krull involves a series of aesthetically modulated negotiations. The third section, 'Narrative performance in Felix Krull explores narrative features including play of genres, interaction with the reader, and polyvalent realism, concluding that the novel's form operates as a meta-commentary upon the thematics of the work as a whole. Each section concludes with a discussion of how these features relate to Mann's other works. In this way, the thesis seeks to demonstrate the overall continuity of Mann's literary achievement.