Cover image for Secret Germany : Stefan George and his circle
Secret Germany : Stefan George and his circle
Norton, Robert Edward, 1960-
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xvii, 847 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PT2613.E47 Z7557 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

That this is the first biography of George by someone outside his circle of followers and admirers underscores the poet's vaunted exclusivity. In this impeccably researched and beautifully written book, Norton (Univ. of Notre Dame) adeptly traces the origins of George's strange, willful personality and conveys an accurate impression of the poet's linguistic and aesthetic originality (to the extent he can in translation). Modeled on Peter Gay's Freud (CH, Nov'88), Secret Germany is actually a prosopography intended to familiarize an English-speaking readership with this little-known poet and his German milieu (most of George's work has not been translated into English). In his day, George was a major figure--perhaps the major figure--in German literary and cultural life; he exerted his influence from behind the scenes, from the "secret Germany" of his elite circle. George's homoerotic obsessions loom large in this volume, but Norton avoids sensationalism. He also leaves no doubt that George's public goal of national rebirth--he championed a "New Reich"--had a dark side (George attributed the "paternity" of Nazi ideology to himself). Norton focuses, appropriately, on George's literary achievements, his uniqueness, and his circle, but he insists on not ignoring the poet's contribution to Hitler's rise. Undergraduate, graduate, and large public collections. M. McCulloh Davidson College