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Thomas Mann's WarLiterature, Politics, and the World Republic of Letters$
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Tobias Boes

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501744990

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501744990.001.0001

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The Greatest Living Man of Letters

The Greatest Living Man of Letters

(p.46) Chapter 2 The Greatest Living Man of Letters
Thomas Mann's War

Tobias Boes

Cornell University Press

This chapter argues that the process by which Thomas Mann was canonized as the “greatest living man of letters” in the New World certainly had many similarities to his staging as a representative writer in the Old. But there were enormous differences as well, and these would turn out to be consequential for literary history, including literary history back in Germany. The chapter explains how Mann's rise to literary prominence in the United States took place within the larger context of a newly emerging and distinctively American cultural formation, the “middlebrow.” At first, this seems antithetical to Mann's associations with “serious” modern literature. However, the chapter reveals that modernism and the middlebrow have never truly stood in opposition to one another.

Keywords:   representative writer, literary history, middlebrow, modernism, American culture, middlebrow culture, public opinion, Thomas Mann

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