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Queer (Dis)locations: Klaus Mann's Early Works and Weimar Homosexual Culture (1919-1933)



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Albé, Francesco 


This thesis is concerned with the representation of non-normative ways of being, informed by queer desire, in the early works of German writer Klaus Mann (1906–1949), written during the Weimar Republic (1919–1933). Specifically, I read Mann against the backdrop of Weimar homosexual culture and its debates around homosexual emancipation, bringing his writings into dialogue with the sexological, cultural and literary texts of other writers, theorists and activists preoccupied with homoeroticism. These include, inter alia, the medical practitioners Sigmund Freud and Magnus Hirschfeld, the emancipationists Adolf Brand and Friedrich Radszuweit as well as both renowned writers such as Klaus Mann’s father Thomas Mann and less canonical authors like Bruno Vogel, Christa Winsloe, John Henry Mackay and Hans Henny Jahnn. Drawing on the recent theorisations of queerness as spatio-temporal disruption of normative arrangements developed by Sara Ahmed, Judith Butler, Lee Edelman, and José Esteban Muñoz among others, I contend that these texts share an intrinsic concern with what I term ‘queer (dis)locations’. These are sexual positionalities that dislocate heteronormative coordinates and enable their potential re-location, a negotiation that, as the added parentheses encapsulate, remains precarious, oscillating between location and dislocation, in the face of pervasive normative structures.

By developing detailed, queer readings of Klaus Mann’s short story ‘Die Jungen’ (1925), his play Anja und Esther (1925), his debut novel Der fromme Tanz (1926) and his historical fiction Alexander (1929), I analyse how these works participate, in their own peculiar ways, in contemporary discourses around the (dis)location of homosexuality vis-à-vis a set of socio-cultural frameworks, in particular educational institutions, dance practices and political utopias. In so doing, my dissertation not only shows the queer potential of dislocation as a representational tool to resist, re-structure or confirm heteronormative organisation in Weimar Germany, but also re-assesses Klaus Mann’s political contribution during the Weimar years, which has often been dismissed or neglected in scholarship on his work. Reading Mann in conjunction with the cultural-political context of homosexual emancipation shows how his Weimar oeuvre ultimately ponders the very political question of the queer subject’s place within collective formations (be it the couple, the family, the community, the nation). In this way, a case is made for Mann’s own activism: a project that draws on Weimar sexual liberation, yet embraces the ambiguity and open-endedness of queerness as a powerful alternative to its more circumscribed politics.





Webber, Andrew


Klaus Mann, Queer Literature, Queer Studies, Weimar Homosexual Culture, Weimar Literature


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Cambridge Trust and Tiarks Fund of the German Section