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literature

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George, Stefan (1868-1933)  

Stefan Anton George, one of the foremost German poets of the turn of the twentieth century and considered a prophet of that period's "conservative revolution," was born on July 12, 1868, in Rüdesheim, the son of a wealthy Rhineland wine merchant.

At an early age, he exhibited a gift for learning languages that later led to his many linguistic innovations in German and to his superb translations into German of the works of the French Symbolists, Dante, and Shakespeare, among others.

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Inspired by Mallarmé's coterie of writers and artists in Paris, George formed his own circle that was known as the Georgekreis (George-Circle). Indicative of George's elitism, he founded a literary journal, Blätter für die Kunst (Pages for Art), which was available only to the members of his circle.

A strong authoritarian personality, he founded his circle on the master-disciple relationship. His devotion to the artistic paradigm of "art for art's sake" manifested itself in his desire to shape his reality according to his aesthetic ideals rather than to society.

George's homosexuality is an open secret in the scholarship about him; that is, it is a commonplace that almost no one will admit. George, however, is as responsible for this closetedness as anyone since he strove in his work to create a private space that would be accessible only to those "like-minded" individuals who possessed the code.

Therefore, his poems allow themselves to be easily construed as "metaphorical" or "platonic," even if they most immediately appear to be about burning gay passion. George accomplishes this effect by addressing a genderless "you" in his poems and by personifying such terms as "love," "soul," and "heart."

Two works, Algabal (1892) and Maximin (1906), especially embody a gay sensibility.

Algabal is a young king who builds himself a subterranean kingdom, the artificiality of which surpasses the natural beauty of the world above. The significance of the embrace of the Unnatural, the Barren, and the nonetheless Beautiful in this work cannot be missed by the reader aware of the stereotypes of gay love, but is simply readable as decadence to one who is not.

The poem's dedication to the memory of the Bavarian king, Ludwig II, a homosexual icon at the turn of the century, is also a signal to its gay meaning.

Maximin was inspired by the Munich high school student, Maximilian Kronberger, whose early death served as an excuse to mythologize his memory. Although the youth's poetry was the overt excuse for his relationship to George, the poetry's mediocrity suggests that George encouraged Kronberger mainly because of his physical beauty.

Heavily employing biblical imagery, the work depicts Maximin as the long-awaited savior. Although the first-person narrator speaks of spiritual fulfillment, in the climactic poem of the series, "Incarnation," the spiritual becomes indistinguishable from the erotic. Spiritual union is described with the language of sexual union.

After the National Socialist State offered him high honors which he rejected simply by not replying, George left Germany for Locarno, Switzerland, where he died on December 4, 1933.

Craig B. Palmer

     

 
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Stefan George in 1910. Photograph by Jacob Hilsdorf.
  
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    Bibliography
   

Borchardt, Rudolf. Aufzeichnung Stefan George betreffend. Munich: Rudolf Borchardt-Gesselschaft, 1998.

Goldsmith, Ulrich K. Stefan George. New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.

Keilson-Lauritz, Marita. Von der Liebe die Freundschaft heißt. Berlin: Verlag rosa Winkel, 1987.

Metzger, Michael M., and Erika A. Metzger. Stefan George. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1972.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Palmer, Craig B.  
    Entry Title: George, Stefan  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated December 18, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/george_s.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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