Providing an analysis of the most important works of Goethe, Nietzsche, and Thomas Mann based on the methodology of comparative literature, this book attempts to determine the elements which reflect a common line of thought in their writings, as well as investigating how these cultural themes reflect their perspective on life and the world, the German spirit and nationality, art and music, politics and society.
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This book is a survey of the inner relationship between the most representative German writers and thinkers of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century: Goethe, Nietzsche, and Thomas Mann, which examines the content of their thought as reflected in their attitude towards the arts, society, and politics of their times. Consequently, it is, on the one hand, a synoptic study, as it envisages the historical context of these three pivotal centuries and their strategic importance for the cultural and social development of modern Germany and Europe in general. On the other hand though, it provides a detailed analysis of the key aspects in the thought of Goethe, Nietzsche, and Thomas Mann, which led to the formation of common themes and concepts in their works and thus to the distinctive message they convey.
The main purpose of the study is to prove that these common themes—the condition and role of the artist in society, the non-exclusivity of art as related to politics, the need to transcend chaotic nationalist politics, etc.—are in fact specific features of a direct Goethean heritage in the thought of both Nietzsche and Mann. This fact has two implicit conclusions. First, their message for society was ethical and visionary, representing the goal of their literary-philosophical productions. They were all searching for the meaning of the internal and external events in their lives and for the manifested opinions towards political turning points such as the French Revolution, Bismarck’s Kulturkampf or the two world wars. Secondly, their ethical convictions are relevant to this day, as an increasing number of historians and literary critics try to find in the works of Goethe, Nietzsche, and Thomas Mann what can be defined as an answer to current inquiries which are similar to the ones in the past. After all, the art of writing is an art with a message.