Journal Article

Rewritings, Adaptations, and Gay Literary Criticism: Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice

James P. Wilper

in Adaptation

Volume 8, issue 1, pages 1-15
Published in print March 2015 | ISSN: 1755-0637
Published online October 2014 | e-ISSN: 1755-0645 | DOI:
Rewritings, Adaptations, and Gay Literary Criticism: Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice

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How is it that despite the fact that Thomas Mann’s Der Tod in Venedig (Death in Venice, 1912) does not portray male same-sex love and desire particularly positively—ending, as it does, with the apparent disgrace and death of the protagonist, Gustav von Aschenbach—it remains a perennial classic of gay and lesbian literature? One reason may be the influence of adaptations and rewritings of the novella on readers. This essay, ‘Rewritings, adaptations, and gay literary criticism: Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice’, examines the role of Luchino Visconti’s film adaptation Morte a Venezia (1971) as a form of gay literary criticism, which reclaimed Mann’s novella for the gay literary tradition. It focuses on the subtle and nuanced relationship that exists amongst four works: Mann’s novella, Visconti’s film, Gilbert Adair’s rewriting Love and Death on Long Island (1990), and Richard Kwietniowski’s film adaptation of the same name (1997). Considering Der Tod in Venedig through the lens of these works which it spawned, I believe, will assist in understanding the place that the novella still holds in our culture over a century since it was first published.

Keywords: Thomas Mann; Luchino Visconti; Gilbert Adair; Richard Kwietniowski; Death in Venice; Love and Death on Long Island; comparative literature and culture.

Journal Article.  8550 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Film ; Television

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