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Thomas Mann, die bürgerliche Gesellschaft und der Neurasthenie-Diskurs
By 1900, the medical phenomenon of neurasthenia had grown into an image of general disorder manifesting the malaise of modernity. Neurasthenia was always more than the psychological suffering of individuals – it was also the price society had to pay for progress. Thomas Mann, too, was influenced by his contemporaries‘ obsession with time. Especially in his early works, such as Buddenbrooks and Tonio Kröger, these subjects come together as if focussed in a burning glass: between degeneration and the psychology of the self, neurasthenia has become a symptom of a crisis of the bourgeois subject; from today's perspective, for example, the symptomatology of Thomas Buddenbrooks can be read as the first case vignette in the history of burnout. In this volume, however, the aim is not to apply the interpretation of neurasthenia as a contemporary illness around 1900 to the present, which application has by now turned into a simple template. Rather, it aims to interrogate the discourses surrounding neurasthenia and artistic potential as time-bound debates and to ask about the conditions of writing in the mirror of neurasthenia. This revisiting of a famous topos – illness and art in Thomas Mann – thus aims to take a new look at an old topic.
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