Course Description

After fleeing Nazi Germany, the writer and Nobel Prize winner, Thomas Mann found refuge for eleven years in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles. Mann was only one among many European artists and intellectuals who made Los Angeles their new home. This seminar explores Mann’s connections to the city and the network of intellectuals with whom he was in dialogue, such as the sociologists Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, writers like Christopher Isherwood and Aldous Huxley, the composers Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky as well as the filmmakers Ernst Lubitsch and Jean Renoir. Which places did he and his European fellows visit? What local concerns kept him busy, and which are still vital topics in Los Angeles today? Which issues preoccupied many in the European exile community? The course readings, workshops, and discussions expose students to the philosophy and practice of digital humanities methodologies to interpret and engage with the course’s themes.

About the Class

Exploring Mann's LA Digitally during the Pandemic

The Spring 2021 course explored the depth and breadth of European émigrés’ contributions to the Los Angeles of the 1930s and 40s and how these continue to influence the city. The class is divided into two modules where the first module is lecture-, discussion-, and lab-based. Each session begins with a primary source presentation based on the week’s materials. The lecture and discussion are followed by hands-on engagement with digital methodologies to explore each week’s theme. View the syllabus here for more details.

Clockwise from top: Franz Werfel, Salka Viertel, Lion Feuchtwanger, Thomas Mann. Illustration by Cristiana Couceiro. Photographs (from left to right): Dick Whittington Studio / Corbis / Getty; Ashley Corbin-Teich / Getty; Thomas Mann Archive / ullstein bild / Getty; New York Times Co. / Getty; AP; Schulberg Collection

Final Projects Gallery

The second module of the course is project-based and asks students to trace the mutual cultural influences between California and Europe in the 1940s. Building on the content knowledge and skills developed during the first module (and throughout the DH Program), students work in groups to create a web-based project exploring and analyzing a theme from the course from multiple angles and pairs original scholarship with interactive primary source material.

Course Collaborators

The class is a true embodiment of a digital humanities collaboration. It combines faculty from the UCLA Digital Humanities Program with DH scholars from the library (thank you to Dr. Zoe Borovsky) and Anthony Caldwell of the UCLA Digital Research Consortium. The class itself is inspired and co-taught by a close-knit community partner with our associates from the Thomas Mann House. The collaborators each brought different skills and expertise, and the course would not have been possible without everyone involved. We all be worked together for the better part of a year to design the class and provide students with an enriching experience in a virtual setting.