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Stefan George (1868-1933) was one of the most important figures in modern German culture. His poetry, in its originality and impact, has been ranked with that of Goethe and Hölderlin. Yet George's reach extended beyond the sphere of literature. In the early 1900s, he gathered around himself a circle of disciples who subscribed to his vision of comprehensive cultural-spiritual renewal and sought to turn it into reality. The ideas of the George Circle profoundly affected Germany's educated middle class, especially in the aftermath of the First World War, when their critique of bourgeois liberalism, materialism, and scholarship (Wissenschaft) as well as their call for new forms of leadership (Herrschaft) and a new Reich found wider resonance. The essays collected in the present volume critically re-examine these ideas, their contexts, and their influence. They provide new perspectives on the intersection of culture and politics in the works of the George Circle, not least its ambivalent relationship to National Socialism.
Contributors: 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.
Melissa S. Lane —
Melissa S. Lane is Professor of Politics at Princeton University.
Martin A. Ruehl —
Martin A. Ruehl is Lecturer in German Thought and Fellow of Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge.
A Poet's reich: politics and culture in the George circle, ed. by Melissa S. Lane and Martin A. Ruehl. Camden House, 2011. 349p index afp; ISBN 9781571134622. Reviewed in 2012aug CHOICE.
Most of these essays trace evolutions--the evolution of the George circle itself, of the idea of a "secret Germany," of Stefan George's homoeroticism, of German imperial mythologies entertained by George and his disciples ("Jünger"), and of their relationship with National Socialism. Many contributors are indebted to Robert Norton's seminal Secret Germany: Stefan George and His Circle (CH, Feb'03, 40-3283). Norton's contribution to the present volume, "From Secret Germany to Nazi Germany," stipulates (as does Peter Hoffmann's "The George Circle and National Socialism") once and for all the relationship of the George circle to nationalistic developments in the years preceding and following 1933. From early use of George's favorite symbol, the swastika, on the covers of his followers' books, to his own book of poems, Das Neue Reich (1928), his influence was more often implicit than explicit, but indisputably palpable. In "The Secret Germany of Gertrud Kantorowicz," Robert Lerner looks at the only woman who can be regarded as a full-fledged member of George's circle. One of the most interesting sections of the book, "Wissenschaft and Herrschaft," includes a piece by Bertram Schefold on political economy and George's circle. This book is another in a long line of excellent Camden House publications.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. -- M. McCulloh, Davidson College