It has always been clear to Mann's readers that there is a philosophical backdrop to the story -- the echoes and citations of Plato, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche are unmistakable. Nevertheless, critics have not taken Mann sufficiently seriously as a philosopher. I shall try to show that he (and Britten, and Mahler, whose music Visconti uses) addresses deep issues about the values central to human lives, the kinds of questions raised by Plato, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. Those questions focus on the role of discipline in the life of citizens and of artists, the potential seductions and corruption of beauty, and the shadows cast by awareness of one's own, possibly imminent death.
Professor Kitcher, who has specialized in the history of science, was a 2008 Lannan Notable Book Award recipient for his work Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith. The lectures take place on January 26, February 2, and February 8 (all Mondays) at 8 p.m. in the Kellogg Center, International Affairs Building, Room 1501. Follow this link for the location of IAB on Columbia's East Campus.
Also of interest re Thomas Mann is the movie Buddenbrooks, which opened on Christmas Day in Germany. Reactions are mixed, although the story of the merchant family, according to newspaper headlines, struck a nerve in "recession-hit Germany." Stefan Falke, a German photographer living in Brooklyn, is responsible for most of the photographs in a recent book documenting the sumptuous costume drama. See his recent posting on the book published by S. Fischer. Until the movie appears stateside, you can sate yourself on images from it at Stefan's website.