Being and Meaning in Thomas Mann's 'Joseph' Novels

Charlotte Nolte
9 February 1996
178 pp
Paperback: No ISBN

The premise of this book is that the theme of being and meaning in Thomas Mann's novel tetralogy Joseph und seine Brüder unites the novel's stylistic and thematic structure. The author demonstrates persuasively how these leading ideas are worked out in detail, pervading plot-structure, symbolism, characterization and narration. Through a subtle series of analyses - of the concepts of time and identity underlying the novel, its image-patterns, the changing psychology of its characters, above all Joseph's process of individuation and the narrator's changing behaviour - patterns of overlap and discrepancy between being and meaning are brought out in such a way as to unite many parts of the novel into an overall coherent structure of meaning. The analysis makes use of Jungian theory to explain the mythical dimension and the emergence of consciousness from it. Jungian concepts are applied deftly and offer real insights into the early psychology of myth and its late psychologizing by mythologists, as presented in the novels. There is much fresh thinking here to stimulate a fuller understanding and enjoyment of Mann's representing of the biblical Joseph story.