In: KulturPoetik 2017, Heft 2


Hanspeter Affolter


Fahrräder und Markennamen. Zum Spannungsfeld von Literatur und Warenwelt bei Thomas Mann, Theodor Fontane und anderen




As he describes the novella’s main artefact, a bicycle, the narrator in Thomas Mann’s Der Weg zum Friedhof (1900) uses a rather intricate phrase to stress the fact that he does not mention its manufacturer. One explanation for this can be found in the ties of advertising to literature during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To gain credit as a serious writer, it was important to avoid any similarities between one’s own work and the style of promotional texts such as short stories or poems written for advertising. The following article sets out to examine this interference between the literary field and the emergent domain of advertising. It focuses on brand names in literary texts, reading the latter as potential intersections between high culture and the world of consumption and mass production. On this basis it seeks to present surreptitious advertising as a heretofore overlooked issue in the contemporary (and current) German literary field. Finally, the evolving narrative treatment of brand names in Mann’s work (until Der Zauberberg) demonstrates a correlation between the author’s growing reputation and a weakening of his eagerness to insist on the demarcation between literature and advertising.