The Dubious Magic of Male Beauty: Politics and Homoeroticism in the Lives and Works of Thomas and Klaus Mann

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Homosexuality has a notable presence in the lives and works of both Thomas and Klaus Mann. Yet at first glance, when considering the ways in which each has expressed his sense of homosexuality, it is hard to conceive of a larger difference between father and son. Whereas Thomas Mann chose to marry and to sublimate his homoerotic desire in his art and political writings, Klaus was more or less open about his own homosexual preference, seeking actively to make it an integral part of his life. However, if their senses of homosexuality are seen against the backdrop of developments in their political thinking, the distinction between father and son seems less clear-cut. Following the rise of Nazi ideology, the two of them gave up their initially more or less apolitical stance, came to adopt similar political views, and publicly denounced Nazism. Projecting public issues back to intimate needs and fantasies, the political thinking of Thomas as well as Klaus Mann is strongly marked by their own personal problematics. Both authors nevertheless failed to connect homosexuality and democratic political activism in a fruitful way. For both of them, homosexuality belonged to an aesthetic sphere, one that eventually was hard to reconcile with moral and political responsibility. Focusing on the way they linked the personal and the political, I argue in this article that it is not possible to understand their ultimately pessimistic perception of homosexuality without taking into account the development of their political views on National Socialism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQueering the canon
Subtitle of host publicationDefying sights in German literature and culture
EditorsCh. Lorey, J.L. Plews
Place of PublicationColumbia CA
PublisherCamden House
Number of pages498
ISBN (Print)1-571-13178-7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1998

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