Penetrating Desire: Gender in the Field of Vision in Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg and Christian Schad’s Graf St. Genois d’Anneaucourt

Esther K. Bauer


Reading together Thomas Mann’s novel Der Zauberberg (1924) and Christian Schad’s painting Graf St. Genois d’Anneaucourt (1927), reveals that the writer and artist mirror each other in highlighting the sexual human body and subverting bourgeois notions of gender. At a time when the gender debate revolved around the question of whether masculinity and femininity were essential qualities or social constructions, Mann and Schad presented the body as the site where the gender category could be overcome. Their renditions of the body attract a gaze – in Mann’s case, the main protagonist’s, in Schad’s, the viewer’s – striving to see underneath the surface of the skin in search of knowledge and aesthetic and sexual pleasure. The highly corporeal desire driving this gaze is gender-neutral, and consequently, categories such as homosexual, heterosexual, or androgynous that have been used to describe these works anchoring them in the traditional gender matrix, miss their true subversive potential. (EB)

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