Outstanding German writer Thomas Mann, who was in exile during the Nazi rule, called for resistance to the regime through monthly radio addresses throughout the years of World War II. After the defeat of Nazism and the writer's refusal to return to his homeland, he became a target for those who called themselves the "internal emigration." Nowadays, Thomas Mann's radio messages gain a second life, illustrating the structural kinship between the aggressive policies of authoritarian regimes that exploit the idea of the otherness of their own people. These texts reveal the commonality of the policies and propaganda of these regimes along with the historical prerequisites and the state of civil society in changing historical circumstances. Furthermore, the post-war dispute in Germany regarding
Thomas Mann's stance illustrates that even following the downfall of an authoritarian regime, segments of society that opposed the government's policies can remain deeply divided and grapple with similar dilemmas and challenges as German intellectuals did in 1945.
During the seminar, we will delve into my translations of Thomas Mann's radio addresses from 1940-1942 and his insightful dialogues with "internal emigrants" in 1945. By the beginning of September, the participants will receive the texts proposed for discussion. The initial three to four seminars will primarily focus on the analysis of radio addresses. I look forward to engaging in discussions with colleagues, going deep into the texts' rhetoric and poetics, and examining the content of the radio messages. We will focus primarily on various aspects, including but not limited to the following:
1. Thomas Mann's political position in historical context and in light of today's situation in the world.
2. Propagandist rhetoric as a technique and a topic:
a) Thomas Mann's messages as a case study on propaganda, particularly regarding their effectiveness in today's context and the reasons behind it.
b) Nazi propaganda analyzed by the writer in light of today's propaganda of the aggressor country.
3. Interchangeability of names: how relevant are Thomas Mann's texts to the current political situation; can the writer's statements provide a comprehensive description of today's situation with the replacement of names and toponyms.
4. The image of the recipient. Messages are addressed to Germans, in one way or another characterizing the properties and condition of the national collective; does the current existential situation allow them to be addressed to Russians, and are any such properties revealed in the process?
The last two seminars will be devoted to the controversy of 1945. The first one will focus on the invitation to return to Germany, Thomas Mann's response, and the criticism regarding his refusal. The second one will delve into Mann's further refusal in his final radio address and the new wave of criticism.
I propose applying these texts to the current controversies between the "departed" and the "remaining." Additionally, it is crucial to discuss the evolving nature of "emigration," as mentioned by Thomas Mann.
I envision the seminar as not only fostering analysis of current events and historical retrospectives, but also cultivating dialogue among the future Russian intelligentsia.