This is the first study of Thomas Mann’s landmark German modernist novel Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain, 1924) that takes as its starting point the interest in Mann’s book shown by non-academic readers. It is also a case study in a cluster of issues central to the interrelated fields of transnational German studies, global modernism studies, comparative literature, and reception theory: it addresses the global circulation of German modernism, popular afterlives of a canonical work, access to cultural participation, relationship between so-called ‘high-brow’ and ‘low-brow’ culture, and the limitations of traditional academic reading practices. The study intervenes in these discussions by developing a critical practice termed ‘closer reading’ and positioning it within the framework of world literature studies.
Mann’s Magic Mountain centres around nine comparative readings of five novels, three films, and one short story conceived as responses to The Magic Mountain. These works provide access to distinct readings of Mann’s text on three levels: they function as records of their authors’ reading of Mann, provide insights into broader culturally and historically specific interpretations of the novel, and feature portrayals of fictional readers of The Magic Mountain. These nine case studies are contextualized, complemented, enhanced, and expanded through references to hundreds of other diverse sources that testify to a lively engagement with The Magic Mountain outside of academic scholarship, including journalistic reviews, discussions on internet fora and blogs, personal essays and memoirs, Mann’s fan mail and his replies to it, publishing advertisements, and marketing brochures from Davos, where the novel is set.