Yahya Elsaghe (University of Bern) will lecture on “Race and Graphology around 1900: Thomas Mann’s Tristan” in Dwinelle 3335.
Like many of Thomas Mann’s early novels and novellas “Tristan” suggests answers to the pivotal question of modern anti-semitism, or rather, offers a calculation whether and how ‘the Jew’ can be identified under any given circumstances. The circumstances under which the possibility of this particular identification is tested are those of virtually perfect assimilation. In “Tristan” the apparently insurmountable identity and alterity of the Jewish body is negotiated by means of graphological details.
Like in Ludwig Klages, whose writings Mann probably never read, graphology thus serves a decidedly racist purpose. It is based on the conviction that there is such a thing as a ‘Jewish character’ in handwriting.