Faust’s transgressions: Male-male desire in early modern Germany
Faust, the scholar who made a deal with the devil in order to experience life as fully as possible, has come to be seen as the quintessential German, one who particularly exposes the dilemmas and traumas of modernity. But there is another persistant aspect of the Faust legend that has been neglected in the scholarly literature. Specifically, male-male desire and references to sodomy have steadily accompanied accounts of the Faust story, from Klinger and Goethe to Thomas Mann and his son Klaus. In Friedrich Maximilian Klinger’s novel of 1791, Fausts Leben, Taten und Hollenfahrt [Faust’s Life, Deeds, and Journey to He11], Faust’s dealings with the devil bring him in contact with sodomitical popes. In Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, the relationship between the protagonist and Mephistopheles is close enough that many interpreters have found a homoerotic tinge to it; in any case, Mephistopheles ends up smitten with the boyish angels in the final scenes, as Margarethe and the Eternal Feminine rescue Faust from the jaws of Hell. Klaus Mann’s Mephisto (1936) is based upon the story of the homosexual actor, Gustav Grundgens, although the novel transforms this homosexuality into interracial sadomasochism.
Queer Masculinities, 1550-1800: Siting Same-Sex Desire in the Early Modern World
Tobin, Robert D., "Faust’s transgressions: Male-male desire in early modern Germany" (2005). Publications. 16.