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:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

January 2015

Come With Us If You Want to Live

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Body Politic

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Problem of Pain Management

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Game On

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Love Crimes

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Body Politic·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“‘He wrote all these love poems, but he was a son of a bitch,’ said a reporter from a wire service.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
Love Crimes·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If a man rapes a woman, she might be forced to marry him, because in Afghanistan sex before marriage is dishonorable.”
Photographs © Andrew Quilty/Oculi/Agence VU
Article
Game On·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union had posed a truly existential threat.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Come With Us If You Want to Live·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I was startled that all these negative ideologies could be condensed so easily into a positive worldview.”
Illustration by Darrel Rees
Article
Christmas in Prison·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Just so you motherfuckers know, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, eating a good meal, and you’ll all be here, right where you belong.”
Photographer unknown. Artwork courtesy Alyse Emdur

Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:

36,000

A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.

Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”

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

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today