Todd Kontje

'Reflections of a Political Man: The Great War as Turning Point in the Work of Thomas Mann' Abstract:

Todd Kontje will discuss Thomas Mann’s wartime journalism in the light of recent debates about the origins and consequences of the First World War. He argues that beneath Mann’s transformation from a bellicose German nationalist in 1914 to a supporter of Weimar democracy and opponent of National Socialism lies a consistent opposition to totalitarian ideologies and governments – if also an equally consistent but more disturbing use of racially-charged imagery and antisemitic stereotypes. At his best, Mann offers us a way to rethink the legacy of empire and to question those who would use recent efforts to absolve Germany of its war guilt as an excuse for a more robust nationalism today.


Todd Kontje received his doctorate from Princeton University and taught at Columbia University before moving to the University of California, San Diego in 1991. There he teaches German and comparative literature, as well as the occasional seminar in critical theory. Kontje has published books on the German Bildungsroman, nineteenth-century women writers, Orientalism, and Thomas Mann; he has been awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Alexander von Humboldt Society, and the Guggenheim Foundation. His current project is tentatively entitled German Literature and the Idea of Empire: Before and Beyond the Nation-State.