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Cornell University Press
Secret Germany: Stefan George and His Circle / Edition 1

Secret Germany: Stefan George and His Circle / Edition 1

by Robert E. NortonRobert E. Norton
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Stefan George (1868–1933) was one of the most important and influential poets to have written in German. His work, in its originality and impact, easily ranks with that of Goethe, Holderlin, or Rilke. Yet George's reach extended far beyond the sphere of literature. Particularly during his last three decades, George gathered around himself a group of men who subscribed to his homoerotic and idiosyncratic vision of life and sought to transform that vision into reality.

George considered his circle to be the embodiment and defender of the "real" but "secret" Germany, opposed to the false values of contemporary bourgeois society. Some of his disciples, friends, and admirers were themselves historians, philosophers, and poets. Their works profoundly affected the intellectual and cultural attitudes of Germany's elite during the critical postwar years of the Weimar Republic.

Essentially conservative in temperament and outlook, George and his circle occupy a central, but problematic, place in the rise of proto-fascism in Germany. Their own surrogate state offered a miniature model of a future German state: enthusiastic followers submitting themselves without question to the figure and will of a charismatic leader believed to be in possession of mysterious, even quasi-divine, powers.

When he died several months after the Nazi takeover, George was one of the most famous and revered figures in Germany. Today the importance of George and his circle has largely been forgotten. In this, the first full biography of George to appear in any language, Robert E. Norton traces the poet's life and rise to fame.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801433542
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 05/29/2002
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 880
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 2.06(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Robert E. Norton is Professor and Chair of German and Russian Languages and Literatures at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of The Beautiful Soul: Aesthetic Morality in the Eighteenth Century, also from Cornell.

What People are Saying About This

Sander L. Gilman

"Robert Norton's Secret Germany unveils the lives of the writers and thinkers around the charismatic turn-of-the-century figure of Stefan George. Part guru, part cultural icon, part cult leader, George has never been the subject of as detailed a biography as Norton's. A brilliant introduction to poetry, homosociability, and cult practices in early twentieth-century Germany."

Sepp Gumbrecht

"Robert E. Norton's monumental book on the poet Stefan George and his famous 'circle' of disciples opens a new and truly stunning view on the first third of the twentieth century as one of the most intense, productive, and, at the same time, devastating periods of German history. Largely forgotten today, Stefan George was the poetic authority in whom many protagonists of the Nazi movement saw their most legitimate forerunner, but he was also the 'master' of Graf von Stauffenberg, the spiritus rector of the resistance group that planned the attempt on Hitler's life in July 1944. One of the great merits of this book manifests itself through a unique ambiguity in the reading experience that it offers: with almost infinite detail Norton brings back the flavor of a long-faded intellectual and cultural style; and yet, the figure of Stefan George and the importance that his group achieved in its contemporary environment remain an ambiguous (not to say mysterious) episode in European history."

Suzanne Marchand

"Secret Germany is a truly exceptional book in every respect: it is wonderfully researched, beautifully written, authoritative, engaging, and important. It is written with grace and measure, clarity and wit, so much so that it is hard to put down."

Customer Reviews