Thesis Into Book: Karolina Watroba’s Mann’s Magic Mountain: World Literature and Closer Reading

This discussion of Karolina Watroba’s recent monograph, Mann’s Magic Mountain: World Literature and Closer Reading (OUP 2022), will centre around the question of how to turn a doctoral thesis into a book. Dr Watroba will be joined by Prof Ben Morgan as discussant and Ola Sidorkiewicz as moderator to talk about conceptual challenges that arise as a thesis becomes a book, such as theoretical framing, intended readership, and academic style.


Mann’s Magic Mountain: World Literature and Closer Reading (OUP 2022) is the first study of Thomas Mann’s landmark German modernist novel Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain 1924) that takes as its starting point the interest in Mann’s book shown by non-academic readers, moving from interwar Germany and Soviet Russia to present-day Hollywood and Japan, and beyond. It is also a case study in a cluster of issues central to the interrelated fields of transnational German studies, global modernism studies, comparative literature, and reception theory: it addresses the global circulation of German modernism, popular afterlives of a canonical work, access to cultural participation, relationship between so-called ‘high-brow’ and ‘low-brow’ culture, and the limitations of traditional academic reading practices.   


Karolina Watroba is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford. She works on modern literature and film across several languages, with a focus on English, German, and Polish. Her second book, Metamorphoses: In Search of Franz Kafka (Profile Books, forthcoming in 2024), is an unconventional biography of Franz Kafka, telling his story through the stories of his readers around the world. She is currently developing one of the strands of this project, on the reception of Kafka in Korea, as a recipient of a British Academy Talent Development Award.

Ben Morgan is Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Worcester College. In 2019, and 2020/21, he was also Visiting Associate Professor of German at Harvard University. He is the author of On Becoming God: Late Medieval Mysticism and the Modern Western Self (Fordham UP, 2013), and numerous articles on modernist literature, film, and philosophy. He edited, with Carolin Duttlinger and Anthony Phelan, Walter Benjamins Anthropologisches Denken (Rombach, 2012), with Matthew Reynolds and Mohamed-Salah Omri a Special Issue of Comparative Critical Studies on “Comparative Criticism: Methods and Histories” (2015), and with Sowon Park and Ellen Spolsky a Special Issue of Poetics Today on “Situated Cognition and the Study of Culture” (2017).