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Hearing History: The Real Role of Music in Hesse's Glasperlenspiel

How does a preoccupation with history limit and delimit the human being? This question, which is central to the development of the protagonist of Hermann Hesse's Glasperlenspiel, propelled Nietzsche to accuse his generation of being “infused with a presentiment that there is really nothing to rejoice about and a fear that all the merriment of historical knowledge will soon be over and done with.” Although Castalia, the home of the Glass Bead Game, isolates itself from the so-called historical world and refuses to engage in political affairs, this same presentiment haunts Hesse's protagonist, Josef Knecht, and drives him away from the ironically self-aware establishment. My presentation will focus on this question and its treatment in Hesse's novel, especially as it relates to Nietzsche's essay Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben, and my reading will seek to tease out how Hesse's (and Knecht's) response to this problem is grounded in a vibrant musical attitude toward life and language – one that is not so much thematic as it is structural.