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Since the rise of fascism in Europe, Hitler's imposition of racist ideology in the Third Reich, and the bombing of Japan, the First World War has receded in public memory as the greatest agent of violence and destruction known to western civilization. Surely no barbarity rivals the Holocaust or the atomic bombings in western memory. Yet in its time the Great War represented a falling away from civilization that cast doubt on humankind's ability to retain its life-sustaining traditions and maintain itself safely. To recall this stunned response, we need only think of such survivors as Robert Graves, Vera Brittain, Siegfried Sassoon, T.S. Eliot, Georges Duhamel, and Erich Maria Remarque, among others including, in their ironic epic novels, James Joyce and Thomas Mann. During the war years Joyce and Mann differed markedly in their attitudes, Mann swept up by nationalist fervor in Germany, Joyce living in Switzerland hoping to ignore the conflict. Yet as they disclose their dismay in Ulysses and The Magic Mountain, both look back at the prewar period through what Mann later came to call "mythical psychology," the founding myths of the human mind. Mann and Joyce register the changed notion of time that grew out of the disruption of the First World War defined by a loss of faith in historical progress and new "search for the trans-historical and rediscovery of myth" (Hollweck 4). One of the ways that the two authors depict the prelude to World War I is in mythic or universal terms. In the present article I elaborate on a shared theme of mythic meaning in The Magic Mountain and Ulysses I believe still holds significance today. Characteristically for the high modernist period, Mann and Joyce recoil from the horrors of history while exploring the recovery of myth as amelioration. Both invoke mythology to bring communal understanding and common sense back to the times. Like Eliot in The Waste Land, they realize that myths may lose their life bearing quality, and they portray a disoriented Europe lacking the creative power to reestablish connection with its grounding traditions. If humanity cared enough for its welfare, it would recall the myths of its heritage, the fundamental act of regeneration, yet the protagonists falter. While Hans Castorp, Stephen Dedalus, and Leopold Bloom are cast as heroes in ancient myths of return, in the confusion of the present day no character completes his story. Just as concerning for the times, adamant partisans like Joyce's Mr. Deasy and the Irish citizen and Mann's Naphta and Settembrini dominate, defending racist, nationalist, and other one-sided "myths" that provoke conflict. The novels balance these risks of unfulfillment and hostility with a theme of healing love represented most powerfully by Bloom: love creates attachments to family, home, and mythical heritage, the only hope for humanizing our lives and history.

Professional & Technical
June 1
Purdue University Press
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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