The fin de siecle was a transformative period for gender identity in Austro-Germany. As women gained more social and sexual independence, many men began to suffer a crisis of masculinity. Gustav Mahler was no exception. Issues of gender identity, sex, and masculinity are woven into the composer’s biography. Mahler’s relationship with masculinity is further complicated when contextualized within his Jewish heritage. Otto Weininger’s Sex and Character of 1903 chided Jewish men for their inherent femininity and added a new, gendered dimension to antisemitic criticism. Attempting to escape this presumed Jewish effeminacy, Mahler became celibate and adopted a lifestyle that mirrored the values of the Körperkultur movement which promoted pure, Christian masculinity to counter the rise of the new, sexually liberated Viennese woman. Musically, Mahler looked to works such as Wagner’s Parsifal, which acted as a gendered religious parable for the triumph of chaste masculinity over the inherent corruption and degeneracy of women. Gustav Mahler therefore becomes a privileged space for the examination of gendered Jewishness in the rapidly changing landscape of fin-de-siècle Vienna.

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