Multi-valent symbolism of the yellow colour in “Death in Venice” by Thomas Mann Cover Image
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Многовалентна символика на жълтия цвят в „Смърт във Венеция“ от Томас Ман
Multi-valent symbolism of the yellow colour in “Death in Venice” by Thomas Mann

Author(s): Sofia Dacheva
Subject(s): Studies of Literature, German Literature
Published by: Институт за литература - BAN
Keywords: Thomas Mann; Death in Venice; yellow, colour; symbol

Summary/Abstract: This article explores the varied manifestations of “Death in Venice” (1912) by Thomas Mann and distinguishes her prophetic, positive and negative connotative markers. The yellow colour in the novel functions as a key element in the poetics of the work through its diverse perceptual dimensions. The mythological tissue in which “Death in Venice” is dressed helps the reader to understand the anachronism of colour symbolism that is both mournful and life-giving: on the one hand, the yellow expresses the colour of eternity, on the other – it is the messenger of the decline old age, recent death. In “Death in Venice”, the symbol of the yellow colour is concentrated in its prophetic connotative energy, which in the middle of the novel also unlocks its negative manifestations. The gold in the work has an immanently positive expression as an emanation of the ancient ideal. The expressions with a positive connotation of the yellow colour in the novel are: “golden glasses”, “yellowish glitter”,”waxy yellow sand”, “yellow curls”, “marbled yellow skin”, “golden dusk”. Prophetic condensative functions are immanently embedded in the expressions: “yellowish”, “yellow fingers”, “light yellow suit”, “yellow full teeth”, and with the negative symbolism the expression “golden spears” can be inferred. Thus, the functioning of the yellow colour in the novel is in the role of a meaningful concept in the construction of the symbolism and semantic multilayer of the work. In “Death in Venice”, gold and yellow balance in the general aesthetic paradigm and the ancient ideal, and the death shadow of sin. The ambiguity at the yellow colour reception reaches its maximum expressive potential in the work and makes it a symbolic element in plotting the story.

  • Issue Year: 62/2019
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 84-93
  • Page Count: 10
  • Language: Bulgarian