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German and Austrian Literature: Before the Nineteenth Century  
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Another thirteenth-century poet known as the "Stricker" inveighs more strenuously against the moral depravity of his time. He accuses homosexuals of murder insofar as they plant their seed in infertile soil.

More positive, if indirect, representations of medieval homosexuality may be found embedded in accounts of homosocial cultural formations.

Tristan und Isold (1205-1215) by Gottfried von Strassburg, for instance, is by no means unique in its depiction of the courtly ethos of intimate male friendship. An erotically laden discourse was cultivated that can be neither equated with nor separated from homosexuality. Indeed, some have argued that Gottfried subtly implies the homosexuality of King Mark in order to explain and partially legitimize Isolde's unfaithfulness with Tristan.

The same careful attention must be paid to the religious outpourings of celibate men and women. For instance, the twelfth-century Beguines, an officially unrecognized religious order of women who chose to be independent of male authority not only in the family but also in the church, included the mystic woman writer Mechthild von Magdeburg. The strong erotic cast of her exchanges with God must be seen in the context of her rejection of male authority.

Male mystics typically eschewed the discourse of second-person erotic encounter, preferring the distance afforded by the third person. But there is one exception: Heinrich Seuse (1295-1366). His erotic yearning for union with God can only be described as .

The Literature of the Reformation and the Baroque Period

The largely negative representation of homosexuality continued in the Reformation and Baroque periods. The Renaissance that fostered a homosexual sensibility in Italy was decisively interrupted by Martin Luther and the concerns of the Reformation. The split between the Catholic and Protestant church fueled mutual charges of homosexuality; the traditions of celibacy and monastic life made the Catholic church the easier target.

Although the History of Dr. Johann Faustus (1587) by Johann Spies is clearly a work written on the threshold of modernity, it continues the connection between homosexuality and the devil. Every day Faust is entitled to select the woman he desires, and at night Mephisto submits to him in her guise. Goethe later thematized Mephisto's homosexuality in Faust, Part Two.

Interesting anecdotal evidence concerning Baroque homosexuality can be found in connection with the composer Johann Rosenmüller (1619-1684). Active in Leipzig during the period between Schütz and Bach, he and some boys were investigated by the city for engaging in "coarse excess."

The official documents declined to name the charge, but rumor spoke of sodomy. Though Rosenmüller was hounded by the reputation of a sodomite, he was never prosecuted; the boys, however, underwent inquisitional examination.

Rosenmüller's hymns and other musical compositions proved a dilemma to both the church and music history. Already in his lifetime, the practice emerged of including his songs but neglecting to name the composer.

The Adventurous Simplicissimus (1669) by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, a picaresque novel set during the Thirty Years War, includes a telling transvestite episode depicted with an unusual measure of realism. The hero, cross-dressed as a young woman, awakens the desire of his cavalry captain, the captain's wife and his servants.

Although his disguise affords him the heterosexual pleasure of groping the captain's wife, she yields to the lesbian pleasure of affections with a young woman; there is no indication that she sees through his disguise.

One last Baroque poet to be mentioned is Daniel Casper von Lohenstein (1635-1683). Traditionally thought of as the epitome of excessively ornamental German Baroque poetry [Schwulst], Lohenstein was rediscovered as a quintessentially gay (and German) poet by Hubert Fichte in 1978.

Fichte's sensitive reading of Lohenstein's Agrippina (1665), a treatment of the Nero story replete with incest, pederasty, male and female homosexuality, necrophilia, sadism, and masochism, brings an "amoral cheerfulness" to light.

He provocatively and appropriately sets Lohenstein at the beginning of a tradition that will lead to the Enlightenment: "Was this Lohenstein's utopia? A republic without racial discrimination, with equal rights for women, and no sexual limits--before Sade, before Freud? . . . Lohenstein formulates this sexual liberty as a utopia of reason."

The Literature of the Eighteenth Century

The extreme androcentrism of eighteenth-century Germany in conjunction with a lively (not to say erotically charged) preoccupation with Greek and Roman antiquity, a relatively open-minded commitment to scientific investigation of human behavior, and a determined break from Christian orthodoxy provided the basis for the development of a positive homosexual identity, at least among the educated classes (still a distinct minority).

The court of Frederick the Great at Sans souci, a male preserve where political, military, philosophical, and aesthetic interests were mingled in the intimate circles of male friends, may be taken as a hallmark of eighteenth-century German homosocialism. Frederick and his brother Henry were almost certainly gay.

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