The punning title of this chapter has a particular rationale. It imitates a marked feature of Mann's own writing practice, where patterns of repetition are used to accentuate strategies of imitation. My argument here will be that this repetitive formulation of acts of imitation has a particular significance for the representation of gender and sexuality, and that these categories of identity, in their turn, have a special importance for Mann's project as a whole.
T. J. Reed has commented on how Mann’s narrative voice in Death in Venice engages in mimicry of Aschenbach’s own discourse. He cites a narratorial judgement of the fallen artist, ‘der in so vorbildlich reiner Form . . . das Verworfene verworfen hatte’ (‘who in such exemplarily pure form had . . . rejected the wayward as wayward’) (viii, 521) and points out that it sounds uncomfortably close to the uninflected vigour of Aschenbach’s own earlier judgements. Specifically, it is an act of ironic citation, taking up the description of Aschenbach’s moral pronouncements, the ‘Wucht des Wortes, mit welcher hier das Verworfene verworfen wurde’ (‘the weight of words, with which the wayward was here rejected as wayward’) (viii, 455). The repetition works on several levels. It is inherent in the original collocation of ‘Verworfene’ and ‘verworfen’, which is in turn ironically framed by a grotesque sequence of repetitive sounds. The narrator is, in other words, performing Aschenbach’s excessive speech act by larding it with further excess, with a too vocal ‘weight of words’. The reiteration later in the text clearly replays this pronounced irony, and it does so all the more tellingly by juxtaposing it with notions of ‘exemplarily pure form’. It is, in other words, a form which is designed to be copied, but not in the parodic style which the narrative voice vocalises. The savage irony of this distorted repetition of the exemplar from the master’s copy-book is that the model form is designed not least as a lesson in the discourse of manhood. The ‘Wucht des Wortes’ is a discursive template of virile ethics for young men to adopt and it rebounds brutally on the master-turned-pederast. That is, an excessively masculine discourse marks the punishment of a man who fails to maintain the exemplary purity of his patriarchal function.
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