Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus

At our March, 2020 meeting we will discuss Thomas Mann’s  Dr. Faustus, selected by Bill Hagens. Bill provides the following information about his selection:


Available editions:

  • Mann, Thomas, trans. Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter.  Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, as Told by a Friend.   New York:  Knopf (1948)
  • Mann, Thomas, trans. John E. Woods. Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, as Told by a Friend. New York: Knopf (1997)  (Preferred)   

Doctor Faustus  is over 500 pages long and anything but an easy read.  In addition to seven main characters, there are over thirty others.  There are also references to numerous real authors,  scientists, philosophers, and, at last count, over 30 composers. 

For those unfamiliar with the book, a summary might be helpful.  While there are many available, I found that the summary by Christopher Gregory-Guider’s written for Encyclopedia Britannica does a fine job in accuracy and brevity.

My particular interests in the book are:

  • Mann’s use of “Faust” in contrast with those of Marlowe, Goethe, Gounod, Boito, Berlioz, and others.
  • The influence of European immigrés living in Los Angles at the time that Mann was writing Dr. Faustus, e.g., Theodor Adorno, Alma Mahler-Werfel, Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Igor Stravinsky, and, of course, Arnold Schoenberg.
  • Leverkühn’s excessive references to other composers and their works., e.g., Beethoven’s and his opus 111.
  • The 12-tone composition controversy as it emerges in Chapter XXII.

So far, I’ve found the following sources helpful:

  1. Adorno, Theodor W., Philosophy of Modern Music.  New York:  Continuum (2003) originally published in1956.
  2. Bergsten, Gunilla, Trans. Krishna Winston, Thomas Mann’s “Doctor Faustus”: The Sources and Structure of the Novel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1996)
  3. Boss, Jack, Schoenberg’s Atonal Music: Musical Idea, Basic Image, and Specters of Tonal Function (Music since 1900). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2019)
  4. Bujic, Bojan, Arnold Schoenberg. London: Phaidon (2011)
  5. Carnegy, Patrick, Faust As Musician: A Study of Thomas Mann’s Novel Doctor Faustus. London: Chatto & Windus (1973)
  6. Feisst, Sabine, Schoenberg’s New World: American Years. New York: Oxford Press (2011)
  7. Janik, Allan & Stephen Toulmin, Wittgenstein’s Vienna. New York: Touchstone (1973)
  8. Keathley, Elizabeth & Marilyn McCoy. Eds &Trans. Schoenberg’s Correspondence with Alma Mahler. New York: Oxford Press (2019)
  9. Leopold, Diethard, Richard Gerstl. Munich: Hirmer (2016)
  10. Mann, Thomas, Trans. Richard Winston & Clara Winston The Story of a Novel: The Genesis of Doctor Faustus. New York: Knopf (1961)
  11. Mann, Thomas; Trans. H.T Lowe-Porter  Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, as Told by a Friend. New York: Knopf (1948). 
  12. Mann, Thomas; Trans. John E. Woods.  Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, as Told by a Friend. New York: Knopf (1997)   
  13. Ross, Alex, “A Faustian Tale to Give Heart?”  New York Times Section 2, Page 35 (April 6, 1997)
  14. _________ “Doctor Faust,” The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2007) pp. 37-79
  15. Ruickbie, Leo, Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician. London: The History Press.  (2009)
  16. Schoenberg, Arnold, Theory of Harmony.  Trans. Roy Carter. Berkeley: University of California Press (1978)  originally published in 1911
  17. Schoenberg, E. Randol, Doctor Faustus Dossier: Arnold Schoenberg, Thomas Mann, and Their Contemporaries, 1930-1951.  Oakland: U of California Press (2018)   
  18. Thomson, William, Schoenberg’s Error. Philadelphia: University of. Pennsylvania Press (1991)

About Ron Boothe

I am a Professor Emeritus at Emory University, currently living in Tacoma Washington USA.
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