Stages of an Exile: Thomas Mann in Chicago

Stuart Hall, Room 102

Thomas Mann, the 1929 laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature, was Nazi Germany’s most prominent political-literary exile. His sojourn in the United States (1938-1952) is usually associated with Princeton, New Jersey where he lectured in 1938-39, and with Pacific Palisades, California, where he wrote Doctor Faustus. However, Mann’s American exile was also anchored by personal and intellectual connections to Chicago, where his youngest daughter Elisabeth lived with her husband Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, Professor of Italian Literature at the University of Chicago. During the war years President Robert Maynard Hutchins sought to make the University an important mediator of the European and German humanistic cultural tradition in the United States. Aided by Mann’s prestige and with Borgese’s enthusiastic participation, the University provided an institutional platform for such initiatives as the Goethe Bicentennial Observances and the Movement for World Federal Government. Through the University of Chicago, Mann’s anti-Nazi position and defense of democracy acquired their political impact. This lecture builds on materials from the University of Chicago’s Special Collections.