Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (1.79 MB)

Der Zauberberg in philosophical, psychological and sociological contexts: an intertextual reading of Thomas Mann

Download (1.79 MB)
posted on 2021-11-15, 10:14 authored by Macauley, Jessica

Life, death, disease and Eros are themes of universal relevance that have been addressed in works of science, philosophy, literature and art throughout recorded human history. In the early 20th century, the unprecedented scale of human extermination during World War I necessitated the adaptation of old ideas to a new reality. This is manifest in the work of the German author Thomas Mann, whose developing ideas on life, death, disease and Eros are clearly apparent in his novel Der Zauberberg (1913-1924).  Der Zauberberg is set at a Swiss tuberculosis sanatorium in the years leading up to World War I. The main protagonist, Hans Castorp, arrives at the sanatorium as a visitor and is subsequently diagnosed with tuberculosis. During his sanatorium stay, Castorp comes into contact with three pedagogic figures: Ludovico Settembrini, Leo Naphta and Mynheer Peeperkorn. These men represent various attitudes towards life, death, disease and Eros. The humanist Settembrini, for example, affirms life but is repulsed by Eros, disease and death; the Jesuit ascetic Naphta glorifies erotic suffering and death while denying life, and the coffee magnate Peeperkorn celebrates life and Eros – yet to a pathological extent. My thesis follows the dialogic clash between the views of these pedagogues, as well as their influence on Hans Castorp, and is divided into sections that relate these views to their sociological implications. After examining the nature of death, life and disease within the novel, I relate these to the novel’s portrayal of society. I follow this with an investigation of the connection between death, life, disease and Eros, and conclude by examining these themes within their sociological context in Der Zauberberg.  The conceptions of life, death, disease and Eros in Der Zauberberg are largely borrowed, following Thomas Mann’s creative technique of “Montage”, which allowed him to incorporate themes, concepts, paraphrased passages and quotations from other thinkers into his own work. These borrowed ideas create a complexity of textual relationships that corresponds to the theory of intertextuality; accordingly, my thesis examines Thomas Mann’s novel from an intertextual angle. Although Der Zauberberg has been the subject of intensive, source-critical study, the newer field of intertextual theory has largely been ignored, notable exceptions being the analyses of Thomas Mann’s works by Barbara Beßlich, Claudia Gremler, Michael Maar and Franziska Schößler. These scholars have narrowed the original, prohibitively wide scope of intertextual theory to enable intertextual analysis of individual texts. Following their example, I limit my definition of the intertext to philosophy, sociology and psychology, specifically to the works of the philosopher-poet Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg), of the philosophers and sociologists Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche, and of the psychologist and sociologist Sigmund Freud. My analysis of Der Zauberberg identifies connections to the intertexts within the novel, and examines how clearly these are presented and what form they take. Most importantly, I investigate the heuristic impact of the novel’s intertextuality, that is, how the intertextual relationships in Der Zauberberg influence the reader’s interpretation of both the nature of life, death, disease and Eros, and their effect on culture in the novel.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Tempian, Monica; Sutherland, Margaret