Winter 1950 • Vol. XII No. 1 NonfictionJanuary 1, 1950 |

Parody and Critique: Notes on Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus

In this country, at this time, our way of looking at our culture makes it difficult for us to look at a work of literary art which announces itself in its title, in the motto on its title page, and in the attributes of its hero as in intention a great work dealing with a very great man. We do not take to great men unless they be criminal or popular or fashionable or dead in some other way; we resent claims to maximum attention and maximum response—we like our great men to do our work for us, and we like to take up their greatness on the side, without noticing it, and without pain. The attitude is prudent, avoids risks and avoids snobbery but it leaves us at a loss before Thomas Mann's Dr. Faustus, the Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as told by a friend—and the sense of being at a loss is all the more acute when we see that the rest of the title-page is covered by nine lines of Dante's Italian taken from the opening of the second Canto of the Inferno where Dante pau

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