Henry James and Thomas Mann achieved a similar status not only in their separate canons but in their common Western literary tradition. While sharing a cultural heritage, both also contributed to its transformation in fictions representing the transition from nineteenth-century art to modernism. The semblances are prominent in the narrative techniques used by both writers, technical devices, which make the reader conscious that he, the reader, is actually creating his own meaning. The moral stigma that appears to be attached to art is interpreted as stemming from the destructiveness inherent in the two conflicting drives, the drive to create form and the drive to surrender to formlessness, both motivated by disease. The artist's moral position is further jeopardized if he completely relinquishes his interpretive mastery and thus yields either to a nothingness that also threatens life or invites interpretive anarchy.