We will see that Thomas Mann’s texts were integrated into a model of literature which identified good literature as a substitute form of ethics, and the author as ethical agent. In chapter two, I will examine the sociological forces acting upon the institution, and suggest why “the author as ethical agent” became an important means of justification for the critical institution. As I will argue, the institution saw a need to justify its place within its rationalizing society. We will see in later chapters how this justification could easily be located in the author as social Other and social ideal: the author was treated as a social Other to demonstrate that an institution was necessary in order to comprehend the author, and he or she was also treated as an ideal, a paradigm for overcoming problems within modern society. This was one paradigm of reception. Heinrich Mann’s more socially critical texts were blunted through an aesthetically tinged discourse of “appropriate effects,” a criterion which is applied by critics both to the audience’s reactions and to the critic’s own sense of propriety. According to this discourse, the audience would not react to a text that was too far from a mimetic representation of society, or to a text that violated a certain decorum.
The Literary Canon as Process: Early Novels by Heinrich and Thomas Mann in Their Contemporary Reception – Wayne Vincent Miller
(diss 1992, introduction)