„Fern im dänischen Norden ein Bruder”: Thomas Mann und Herman Bang. Eine literarische Spurensuche

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Abstract

This study for the first time demonstrates and analyses the full extent of Danish impressionist writer Herman Bang’s influence on one of Germany’s major authors, Thomas Mann. Mann was an avid reader of Bang’s works and he regarded the Scandinavian writer as a kindred spirit, a “brother up north”, who “taught [him] much”. It has previously been accepted that Bang was an inspiration for Mann in his formative years. However, as this study conclusively shows, references to Bang’s works occur throughout Mann’s writings, from the early novellas to the late novels. The book argues that Mann was not only impressed by Bang’s highly individual style of impressionist writing but that his fascination for Bang’s works was to a large extent based on this author’s recurrent depiction of decadence, his handling of artistic motifs and his treatment of erotic themes. Bang’s topical focus on the problematically isolated lives of artists and aristocrats as well as his insights on the destructive nature of love and sexuality – particularly of homoerotic desire – were surprisingly similar to Mann’s own views on these topics and yet provoked him to produce heavily referenced counter versions of Bang’s works. This phenomenon is explored in the context of Mann’s struggle with his own homosexuality and the attraction that death and decadence exerted over him. Most of Mann’s writings are in that way indebted to Bang. In addition, Mann’s frequent use of homoerotic subtexts and his depiction of female characters were noticeably influenced by Bang’s literary techniques. All these different, yet closely interlinked, aspects of Mann’s creative appropriation of Bang’s works are analysed and discussed in this study. To conclude, Mann’s references to Bang’s works are schematised and an attempt is made to characterise Mann’s intertextual practice in general in the context of his famous use of irony.

Details

Translated title of the contribution"A brother in the Danish North" : Thomas Mann's reception of Herman Bang's writings
Original languageGerman
Place of PublicationGöttingen
PublisherVandenhoeck & Ruprecht
Number of pages366
ISBN (Print)3-52520-593-7
StatePublished - 2003

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