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By Melissa S. Lane, Martin A. Ruehl

The poet Stefan George (1868-1933) was once some of the most vital cultural figures in sleek Germany. His poetry, in its originality and influence, has been ranked with that of Goethe, Hölderlin, or Rilke. but George's succeed in prolonged a long way past the sector of literature. in the course of his final 3 many years, he attracted a circle of disciples who subscribed to his homoerotic and aestheticist imaginative and prescient of existence and sought to remodel it into fact. The works and regarded the circle profoundly affected the highbrow and cultural attitudes of Germany's knowledgeable heart classification from the start of the 20 th century, and are hence an important to Germany's cultural and highbrow historical past. The transition from the aestheticist, cosmopolitan values the circle embraced within the early 1900s to the extra explicitly political and patriotic perspectives lots of its participants espoused in the course of the Weimar Republic either conditioned and mirrored a momentous transformation in German notion. The intersection of tradition and politics within the George Circle has acquired little realization in English-language scholarship formerly. This quantity comprises contributions from significant students in either English- and German-speaking nations. Its viewers contains students and scholars of German languages and literature, German background, and reception of the classics, between different fields. members: Adam Bisno, Richard Faber, Rüdiger Görner, Peter Hoffmann, Thomas Karlauf, Melissa S. Lane, Robert E. Lerner, David Midgley, Robert E. Norton, Ray Ockenden, Ute Oelmann, Martin A. Ruehl, Bertram Schefold.

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Born in 1868 in Büdesheim, near Bingen, George was the eldest son of a Catholic, middle-class rural family, which had descended from both sides of the river Rhine. 3 This community was to hold regular meetings and tea parties, at which individual members would read from their works, and eventually publish a kind of periodical. While the idea itself may not seem entirely unusual, coming from a precocious adolescent Gymnasiast, the tenacity with which young George pursued it and his relentless claim to leadership call for comment.

5 Wolfskehl’s remarks reflect the Gesellschaft’s attempts to endow its activities with new meaning; it also marks an important caesura in the development of the Circle. By redefining art as a sacral activity, George and his followers redefined the bonds that held them together as a group. What had hitherto been a mere loose association grew into a circle: the Gesellschaft was transformed into a Kreis, with a core and a periphery. Concepts such as Erziehung and Dienst,6 as well as Führerschaft and höheres leben became central to the self-understanding as well as the selffashioning of the Circle, which began to see itself as a small elite with the self-proclaimed task to regenerate Kultur and Geist: “Wir wissen wohl dass der schönste kreis die grossen geister nicht hervorrufen kann, aber auch dies dass manche ihrer werke nur aus einem kreis heraus möglich werden” (B, 4:1–2).

That the George Circle eventually left such a deep mark in the intellectual history of twentiethcentury Germany was only made possible by a further transformation that took place in the second half of the 1900s. Without it, the Circle may well have remained a comparatively marginal and ephemeral phenomenon within the Lebensreform movement of the fin de siècle. This transformation was brought about by George’s invention of a new godhead: Maximin. In his programmatic essay of 1910, Wolfskehl invoked Nietzsche’s ideas, which he believed to be closely related to those expressed in the Blätter and which, he claimed, had been realized in the most accomplished contributions to the periodical.

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