No Comment, Quotation — February 29, 2008, 12:51 am

Mann on Myth, Psychoanalysis and Literature

Der gelebte Mythus aber ist die epische Idee meines Romans, und ich sehe wohl, daß, seit ich als Erzähler den Schritt vom Bürgerlich-Individuellen zum Mythisch-Typischen getan haben mein heimliches Verhältnis zur analytischen Sphäre sozusagen in sein akutes Stadium getreten ist. Das mythische Interesse ist der Psychoanalyse genau so eingeboren, wie allem Dichtertum das psychologische Interesse eingeboren ist. . .
Im Leben der Menschheit stellt das Mythische zwar eine frühe und primitive Stufe dar, im Lebendes einzelnen aber eine spate undreife. Was damit gewonnen wird, ist der Blick für die höhere Wahrheit, die sich im Wirklichen darstellt, das lächelnde Wissen vom Ewigen, Immerseienden, Gültige, vom Schema, in dem und
nach den das vermeintliche ganz Individuelle lebt, nicht ahnend in dem naiven Dünkel seiner Erst- und Einmaligkeit, wie sehr sein Leben Formel und Wiederholung, ein Wandeln in tief ausgetretenen Spuren ist.

But the epic concept of my novel is myth experienced as life and I well understand that from the time I took the step as a writer from the bourgeois-individual to the mythic-typical, my personal relationship to the analytical sphere stepped into an acute stage, in a manner of speaking. The interest in the mythical is as inherently a part of the psychoanalytical as an interest in the psychological is inherently of interest to a writer. . .
The myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious. Certainly when a writer has acquired the habit of regarding life as mythical and typical there comes a curious heightening of his artistic temper, a new refreshment to his perceiving and shaping powers, which otherwise occurs much later in life; for while in the life of the human race the mythical is an early and primitive stage, in the life of the individual it is a late and mature one.

Thomas Mann, Freud und die Zukunft (1937) in Leiden und Größe der Meister, pp. 920-21 (Frankfurter Ausg. 1982)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2016

Psychedelic Trap

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Hamilton Cult

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Held Back

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Division Street

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Innocents

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quiet Car

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Hamilton Cult·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The past is complicated, and explaining it is not just a trick, but a gamble."
Illustration by Jimmy Turrell
Article
Division Street·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Perfectly sane people lose access to housing every day, though the resultant ordeal may undermine some of that sanity, as it might yours and mine."
Photograph © Robert Gumpert
Article
Held Back·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"'We don’t know where the money went!' a woman cried out. 'They looted it! They stole our money!'"
Artwork by Mischelle Moy
Article
The Quiet Car·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.

Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.

Photograph by Joshua Lutz
Article
Innocents·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion."
Photograph © Nadia Shira Cohen

Amount of laundry an average American family of four washes in a year (in tons):

1

A study of female Finnish twins found that relative preference for masculine faces is largely heritable.

It was reported that visits from Buddhist priests could be purchased through Amazon in Japan, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra began streaming performances through virtual-reality headsets.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today