Contagion Book Club - Death in Venice

Member-Led at Online

Sun, May 3 at 2:30 p.m.   |   60 minutes
Clubs: Member-led conversations around books, films, etc.

Contagion Book Club, reading Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

The Contagion Book Club will be led by Scenius member Angie Mauri. Angie pitched this book club because she sees that history and literature are full of stories about contagions. In Angie's own words: Of the commentary I have heard about the spread of Covid-19 and the current state of emergency, a recurring one defines the situation "unreal". We are a long stretch from "normal", sure, but "unreal" is most definitely not a good definition of what is going on. In fact, quite the opposite is true. This is as real as can be. Through the lens of human history, rather than the limited one of personal history, one sees that pandemic diseases afflicted the world population time and time again throughout the centuries. We are facing a very scary and typically human plight. The danger is real, the consequences can be dire, emotions can go out of control and make people even more miserable than what we already need to be. What better than using art to catch up with reality?

To contextualize and process the fear and discomfort in these times, we will read and discuss the following books: History Of The Column Of Infamy by Alessandro Manzoni (1840), Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (1912), Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (1985), and Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (1351).

For our second book, we will read Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. (1912) The story takes place at a resort on the marina of Venice. Cholera infects the city but the authorities try to conceal the danger from tourists so that they don't leave. The plot follows the progress of a pederast and platonic love kindled in an aging artist by a beautiful teen-age boy sojourning at the same hotel. In a metaphoric sense, the disease is seen as the hangman who brings a decadent man to his demise, because the man is literally too weak and beyond himself to escape. The cultural environment here is the sickly introspection that make people stuck and unable to make a move to save themselves. This is a theme dear to European authors of the time. It finds its purest expression in the splendid short novel The Fall (1956) by Albert Camus. It's that crippling mode of thinking which detains individuals confined within the cage of their own heads, unable of empathy, joy, renovation and communication with others. It is ultimately a death sentence. The text exudes a pervasive sense of languor and fatigue. It describes with brilliant accuracy what exactly moves a person who lets himself die.

A PDF of the text is available from Think Olio.

Teacher: Member-Led

This event is member-led.


Venue: Online

Zoom link will be sent upon signup.


Add to Calendar May 3, 20202:30 p.m. May 3, 2020 America/New_York Think Olio | Contagion Book Club - Death in Venice Contagion Book Club, reading Death in Venice by Thomas Mann Online

What is Think Olio?


Think Olio is here to put the liberation back into the liberal arts.

Classically, the liberal arts, were the education considered essential for a free person to take an active part in civic life. To counter a humanities that has been institutionalized and dehumanized we infuse critical thinking, openness, playfulness, and compassion into our learning experience.

Read more about our mission, our story, and how we are doing this.

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If Friday night lectures, museum field trips, and living room salons sound like your kind of thing, then you've found your people. We can't wait to welcome you to the Think Olio Scenius. More info


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Olio: A miscellaneous collection of art and literature.