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Gustav von Aschenbach's Death in Venice Essay

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Gustav von Aschenbach's Death in Venice

Prior to his encounter with Tadzio, Gustav von Aschenbach in "Death in Venice" is not an artist to be creatively inspired by sensuous beauty. Rather, his motivation derives from a desire to be accepted and appreciated by his audience, his "whole soul, from the very beginning, [being] bent on fame." [1] Nor does Aschenbach create in moments of ecstasy: being called to the constant tension of his career, not actually born to it (9), he is able to write only through rigid isolation and self-discipline. But though he is able thereby to win "the adhesion of the general public and the admiration, both sympathetic and stimulating, of the connoisseur" (9), Aschenbach reaches a creative impasse, getting "no joy of [his work]-- not though a nation paid it homage" (7). And, one day, unable to check the motus animus continuus or source of eloquence within him, be wanders to the North Cemetery where be encounters a mysterious vagabond; and then, impelled to travel further, journeys to Pola and finally to Venice. On the steamer to Venice, Aschenbach asks his "own weary heart if a new enthusiasm, a new preoccupation, some late adventure of the feeling could be in store for the idle traveler" (19). He finds a positive answer in the person of Tadzio, the strikingly beautiful Polish boy with whom be becomes increasingly infatuated to the extent that he is unwilling to leave Venice despite its ominous forebodings.

At the end of the novella's third chapter, Aschenbach, realizing that leaving Venice is too difficult "for Tadzio's sake" ( 40), forsakes his4C closed fist" discipline and surrenders to his growing passions; the fourth chapter culminates in his confession "of love and longing" for Tadzio. In ...


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... Erich, The Ironic German: A Study of Thomas Mann (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1958).

Heller, Peter, "Thomas Mann's Conception of the Creative Writer," PMLA, 69 (September 1954), 764.

Mann, Thomas, "Death in Venice" and Other Stories, trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter, (New York: Vintage).

Mann, Thomas, Letters of Thomas Mann, selected and translated by Richard and Clara Winston, (New York: Knopf, 1971).

Plato, Phaedrus, trans. R. Hackforth, in Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, eds. The Collected Dialogues of Plato (New York: Pantheon, 1966).

Rey, W., '"Tragic Aspects of the Artist in Thomas Mann's Works," Modern Language Quarterly, 19 (September 1958).

Rosenthal, M. L. "The Corruption of Aschenbach," The University of Kansas Review, 14 (1947),

Traschen, Isadore, "The Use of Myth in 'Death in Venice,"' Modern Fiction Studies, 11 (Summer 1965).


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