Sadomasochism and identity narratives in the Weimar Republic: Klaus Mann’s Mephisto
Keywords:Klaus Mann, BDSM, sadomasochism, Weimar culture, jazz, dance
Klaus Mann’s Novel Mephisto, published in 1936 during the writer’s exile, and partially inspired by the real life of actor Gustav Gründgens, focuses on the problematic and ambiguous relationship between art and power (in this case the Nazis’ power). One of the most meaningful episodes in the novel depicts a sadomasochistic session between the protagonist and a “black Venus”, an Afro-German dancer, who holds a central role in the protagonist’s life as well as a particular cultural relevance from the critic’s point of view. Starting from the analysis of this episode, the paper investigates the role of performance in the construction of the actor’s identity and its socio-political implications in Weimar literature and culture.
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