Thomas Mann's last major novel, Doktor Faustus, revolves around the transformation of traditional German culture into Hitler's fascist Germany, a process that intrigues and confounds thinking people still today. Mann has always been considered an exemplary and authoritative portrayer of German culture, and his opinion on the rise of fascism carries considerable weight. Unfortunately, the novel has always been interpreted as saying the opposite of what it does in fact say. Frances Lee provides a radically new interpretation by relating in a detailed manner to the text of Doktor Faustus the arguments expressed by Mann in his Observations of a Non-Political Man -- a book of political essays published in 1918. This approach resolves many of the features that have been seen by critics as flaws or contradictions in the novel. Lee establishes what is actually happening in the novel in its historical setting, showing Mann's view of how the acceptance of fascism occurred and the determining role he attributed to the academic community in bringing about the disaster. Her book will be of interest to both amateur and professional students of Mann, particularly because it points to rich new directions for study.
Frances Ann Ray Lee received the Ph.D. in German literature from the University of Toronto in 2005.