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Irony on OccasionFrom Schlegel and Kierkegaard to Derrida and de Man$
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Kevin Newmark

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823240128

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823240128.001.0001

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Death in Venice: Irony, Detachment, and the Aesthetic State

Death in Venice: Irony, Detachment, and the Aesthetic State

Chapter:
(p.177) Seven Death in Venice: Irony, Detachment, and the Aesthetic State
Source:
Irony on Occasion
Author(s):

Kevin Newmark

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823240128.003.0008

Thomas Mann, perhaps the most widely recognized theorist-practitioner of irony in the 20th century, provides a crucial test case for any study of irony. This chapter situates Mann at the far end of German romanticism and asks how his understanding of irony relates to that of Schlegel, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. After sketching key elements in his theory of irony, the chapter reads Death in Venice to determine whether Mann's concept of aesthetic detachment can match the ironic forces inscribed within his fiction. The lucidity, self-consciousness, and aloofness of the novella's narrator stand in marked contrast to the confusion, loss of self-understanding, and demise that progressively beset the main character. This divergence between empirical fallibility and the serenity of intellectual comprehension corresponds perfectly to the concept of irony that Thomas Mann proposes throughout his career. Other elements, however, both thematic and rhetorical, ultimately interrupt this correspondence with an irony of a wholly foreign type.

Keywords:   Thomas Mann, Schlegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Theory, Fiction, Death in Venice, Irony, Serenity, Aesthetic detachment, Interruption

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