Global Intimations: Cultural Geography in Buddenbrooks, Tonio Kröger, and Der Tod in Venedig
Author: Boa, Elizabeth
Source: Oxford German Studies, Volume 35, Number 1, 2006 , pp. 21-33(13)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:Cultural geography emphasizes the role of imagination in structuring geographical objects of study and conversely sees places and landscapes as social fields in which identities are constructed. This article considers geographical motifs, within the context of Heimat discourse, in Buddenbrooks, which shows the collapse of locally rooted identity, and Tonio Kröger, which engages more explicitly and ironically with Heimat themes. Der Tod in Venedig leaves Heimat behind, however, as its hero travels abroad and muses upon European civilization. Aschenbach's reflections either sustain or undermine his sense of self, as he tries to superimpose a geographical order upon his world. But the boundaries prove porous and control slips away as the markers of otherness binding identity threaten to collapse. Aschenbach's deepest anxieties are stirred when class and national characteristics come into tension and mix with other cultural differences which cannot be assimilated to national stereotypes or when stereotypes take on the quality of conscious performance, arousing fear of the unknown behind the performer's mask. The Novelle massively subverts the Western bourgeois subject, ironically signalled in the phrase 'sein Ich und die europäische Seele', and the master narrative of enlightened progress. The sense of crisis it conveys still speaks in our globalizing times when fears of 'grenzenlose Vermischung' and assertions of cultural identity may induce violent exclusion of others.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2006-04-01