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European History


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany: Cross Disciplinary Perspectives edited by Lynne Tatlock, series editor Thomas Al Brady, Jr & Roger Chickering (Studies in Central European Histories: Brill)

Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany assembles cross-disciplinary perspectives on the experience of and responses to forms`of material and spiritual loss in early modern Germany. It traces how individuals and communities registered, coped with, and made sense of such events as war, religious reform, bankruptcy, religious marginalization, the death of spouses and children, and the loss of freedom of movement through a spectrum of activities including writing poetry, keeping diaries, erecting monuments, collecting books, singing, painting, repeatedly migrating, and painting, and thereby not only turned loss into gain but self-consciously made history. |/p>

Contributors to Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany are Rosalind J. Beiler, Claudia Benthien, Jill Bepler, Duane J. Corpis, Alexander J. Fisher, Ulrike Gleixner, Claudia Jarzebowski, Hans Medick, Barbara Lawatsch Melton, Christopher Ocker, Helmut Puff, Thomas Max Safley, Jeffrey Chipps Smith, Lynne Tatlock, Mara Wade, Lee Palmer Wandel, and Bethany Wiggin. Editor Lynne Tatlock is Hortense and Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis. The series editors are Thomas A. Brady, Jr, UC Berkeley and Roger Chickering, Georgetown University.

The sixteen essays in Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany explore perceptions of and responses to loss during the approximately 250 years that comprise early modern Germany. These contributions grew out of papers originally presented on March 27-29, 2008, at "Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany," the fifth triennial interdisciplinary and international conference held at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and sponsored by Frhe Neuzeit Interdisziplinar (FNI), an organization of North American and European scholars devoted to interdisciplinary study of the culture and history of German-speaking Central Europe. In keeping with FNI's mission to bridge disciplinary divides that can confound broader understandings of the character and trajectories of early modern Germany, this collection of essays assembles and juxtaposes scholarship across disciplines as well as research that spans disciplines literary studies; gender studies; cultural, social, and economic history; art history; history of emotions; architectural history; musicology; history of religion and theology; women's history; studies in place and space; and historical anthropology with the express intention of making that diverse work mutually resonate.

The sweeping political, economic, religious, and intellectual paradigm shifts and conflicts, indeed catastrophes, that took place in Central Europe during the years 1500-1750 left in their wake enormous wreckage in the German territories. The perception and experience of and recreative responses to this wreckage stand at the heart of the sixteen essays in Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany as they examine challenges confronted as a result of death, reconfiguration of space, proscriptions on movement, war, the threat of dynastic extinction, forced emigration, the loss of spiritual community, the destruction and confiscation of property, bankruptcy, and the loss of social status.

New technologies of printing and improving communication over the course of two-and-a-half centuries spread the news of threat, crisis, devastation, and bereavement more rapidly; an emergent public sphere facilitated, furthermore, debate and dissent over the meanings of these events. Print culture and increasing literacy, however, fostered not merely sharing of knowledge and contesting of opinion but also an unprecedented textualization of human experience in Europe. Even private, ordinary individuals kept diaries and thus chronicled the vicissitudes of their short lives. Moreover, individual subjects living in the German territories increasingly had a sense of themselves as selves whose losses were defined not only by the authorities and institutions with whom they tangled, the material disasters with which they struggled, and the violence to which they and their neighbors were subjected, but also by their own writings and their feelings, perceptions, and beliefs about the meanings of these losses and, not least, by their grief over their own finitude as, for example, in the case of the aging Albrecht Drer.

The contributions to Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany examine individual emotional reactions to loss, while also treating the perception of and response to loss as emergent from interpersonal, communal, and institutional dynamics, that is, from negotiations and contestations within social, religious, and economic systems. They investigate such affective and symbolic responses as public dynastic mourning, mourning within circles of academic elites, and artistic expressions of individual and cultural melancholy as well as such strategic and reconstructive responses to privation as migrating, remodeling churches and convents, writing poetry, telling stories, making art, singing communally, collecting books, and erecting monuments of metal, stone, and paper. In their materiality, graphic responses to loss became, as the contributors repeatedly demonstrate, lasting tributes and testimonies not merely to perceived loss but to the fears, pain, piety, creativity, spontaneity, persistence, will, drive, flexibility, synthetic intelligence, and ingenuity of early modern people men and women, nobles, clerics, nuns, poets, merchants, academics, burghers, and peasants.

The essays in Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany approach the investigation of loss with an understanding that loss was not always experienced as irreversible or tragic in early modern Germany. Some early modern persons proved extraordinarily resilient, and as the contributions to this anthology demonstrate and this is perhaps the central and shared finding of the essays in this volume some losses were in the end perceived as gains by those who experienced, responded to, and recorded them or, at the very least, by later generations. Reactions to change and inevitable loss, moreover, testify repeatedly in the pages of this anthology to dynamism and unpredictability in human affairs. In losing and being lost, these people and these communities were thus sometimes found.

Hans Medick opens the inquiry into early modern loss with a consideration of the concept and designation Thirty Years' War and the suffering, ruin, and setbacks associated with this extended period of armed conflict as they were recorded and solidified for posterity in personal accounts from the time period. He argues from an historical anthropological perspective that these accounts reflect responses to real historical circumstances and ways of knowing and seeing in that period. As personal accounts from all social groups make clear, contemporaries had a strong sense of having experienced a unique and unified historical event that had disrupted communal and economic life to a degree hitherto inconceivable in the early modern European context. The very fact of the historical mooring of the concept of a thirty years' war in experience and self-expression, Medick furthermore maintains, secured the long-term historical understanding of this series of armed conflicts as a Thirty Years' War and a catastrophe of unprecedented size and suffering.

These sixteen cross-disciplinary explorations of early modern understandings of and responses to loss in Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany conclude with a sixteenth-century instance of material loss, a spectacular bankruptcy: the collapse in 1529 of the powerful, aggressive, and well-connected Hochstetter firm. Thomas Max Safley takes up this case to interrogate the usefulness of the concept of social death, since even after suffering bankruptcy and the dramatic and ostensibly irreversible loss in social status that accompanied it, the Hochstetter family surprisingly reemerged. As Safley points out, death indicates stasis, yet the history of the family testifies by contrast to resilience and dynamism in human affairs. Safley reminds readers again of what the denizens of early modern Germany understood only too well: things change, fortunes turn, loss becomes gain, and gain becomes loss. Indeed, as the essays in Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany indicate, early modern Germans men and women whatever their station adapted and coped with these blows. And in the Christian context, the pious among them believed that beyond the inconstant and treacherous ephemeral world were God's love and the promise of redemption. While temporal misfortune might have been the story, in the larger scheme of things, it could never be that story's end.

The essays in Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany reveal how loss helped to create identity and gave rise to agency and creativity on the cusp of modernity.

The Conservative Revolutionaries: The Protestant and Catholic Churches in Germany after Radical Political Change in the 1990s by Barbara Theriault (Monographs in German History: Berghahn Books) During the forty years of division, the Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany were the only organizations to retain strong ties and organizational structures: they embodied continuity in a country marked by discontinuity. As such, the churches were both expected to undergo smooth and rapid institutional consolidation and undertake an active role in the public realm of the new eastern German states in the 1990s. Yet critical voices were heard over the West German system of church-state relations and the public role it confers on religious organizations, and critics often expressed the idea that despite all their difficulties, something precious was lost in the collapse of the German democratic republic. Against this backdrop, the author delineates the conflicting conceptions of the Protestant and Catholic churches' public role and pays special attention to the East German model, or what is generally termed the "positive experiences of the GDR and the Wende."

The second revolution that took place in Germany over the last decade—the "revolution by means of contract" —led to the overthrow of the institutional order and the transfer of West German institutions to the territory of the former German Democratic Republic. German unification through "institutional transfer" (Lehmbruch 1994a) allowed the former East Germany to experience a quick transition to pluralism and to the market economy that was unique in central and eastern Europe.' Article 23 of the Basic Law of the Feder-al Republic of Germany (FRG) extended its institutions and structures to territory of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). A "second phase of unification," institutional consolidation, proved more difficult. This phase has been marked by a confrontation with the legacy of the GDR and by slow cultural unification. Scholars—not to mention the actors themselves—were quick to point to an East German "identity" or "mentality" and the chasm between this and "exported" institutions  . Some commentators also argued in the line of the "politics of authenticity" (Taylor 1992), that is, East Germans' need for recognition (Pollack 1997a; Pollack 1999); while others, such as Seibel (1997), have stressed the per­sistence of social milieus in explaining the existence of remnants of the socialist experience in a postcommunist society. Briefly, the experiment named "unification," to paraphrase Giesen and Leggewie (1991), represents a great challenge not only for Fast Germans but also for scholarship.

Unification through institutional transfer has bestowed an influential role on the churches and their welfare agencies in the public realm of the new eastern German states. After forty years of atheistic propaganda and policy, the extension of the Basic Law of the FRG to the Eastern states conferred new constitutional guar­antees upon Christians and established religious organizations. New spheres of activity were opened up, and the influence of these organizations increased. Together these reforms assured the participation of religious organizations in policymaking and public service provisions in the areas of social policy, education, and the media. Subsequent legal provisions served to reiterate and indeed strengthen their position as well as define their role within state agencies. The constitutions of the new federal states now refer explicitly to the churches and their welfare organizations. The increased role and influence of the churches stand, however, in stark contrast with the low church membership of the popu­lation of the new Eastern states. Once the heartland of Reformation, only about twenty-five percent of its population is now affiliated with the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the federation of Protestant churches. Catholics, a minority in the eastern territories at the founding of the first German national state, now account for only between four and six percent of the population (Pil­vousek 1993a; Pollack 2000: 19).4 In fact, the former East Germany has one of the highest non-confessional populations in Europe.

During the forty years of division, the Protestant and Catholic churches were the only organizations in East Germany to retain strong ties and organizational struc­tures with their West German counterparts: they embodied continuity in a coun­try marked by discontinuity.' This situation allowed for continued communication as well as the transfer of people and goods in the divided Germany, not to mention innovative political initiatives such as the Ostpolitik of the West German government and the peace movement. As such, the churches were expected to both undergo smooth and rapid institutional consolidation and undertake an active role in the public realm of the new eastern German states. Whereas the reestablishment of the churches' unity was indeed speedily completed, critical voices were heard over the West German system of church-state relations and the public role it confers on religious organizations. In particular, debates emerged around contemporary church practices in western Germany: the issue of state-levied church taxes, military chaplaincy, and religious instruction in state schools. Although the small Catholic Church in the new Eastern German states was not totally immune from such polemics (see Richter 1991; Thériault 1999), Fast German Protestants primarily fueled the debates with their brethren in the West. Critics often expressed the idea that despite all their difficulties, something the collapse of the GDR has been termed Ostalgie. The discussions that were engaged in on the churches' public role, their Offentlichkeit‑ considerably hindered their inner consolidation in the 1990s. They show that the continuity that characterized the churches as organizations is not reflected in values and self-definitions.

The division of Germany—as well as the experience of the Third Reich—and the institutional order imposed by the communists radically redefined the churches' relationship to the state in East Germany. In spite of the contacts they main­tained and cultivated during the period of the two Germanys, the churches in the East drifted apart from their sister churches in the West on various issues. Although the Protestant and Catholic churches in East Germany evolved within a common institutional order, they adopted different paths: one in opposition to the state, the other in symbiosis with it. The Protestant churches are remem­bered for their ambiguous attitude to the state—under the controversial motto "the Church in socialism"—but also for the role they were granted during the 1980s as platform for grassroots groups in the "peaceful revolution" that led to the demise of the GDR. In contrast, the Catholic Church has been referred to as the "Church of silence" (Richter 1989: 1238). During the forty years of the GDR, this smaller church played a minor, unobtrusive role in the country's polit­ical life. This situation reversed after the fall of the Berlin Wall. While the change presented new problems for many Protestants and hindered this church's consol­idation, the small Catholic Church has`undertaken what has been polemically described as a "re-Catholization" of Fast Germany (Neubert quoted in Lange 1996: 96). They have created new structures, have restored and expanded older ones, and have taken over formerly state-run social agencies. The Catholics have gained (some) political power and become part of an elaborate network of asso­ciations. As such, the study of churches raises issues of change and continuity in German history.

A perusal of the literature on Fast Germany shows that the churches in the GDR constituted a major subject of social inquiry (Nowak 1996). However, there has been little research on organized religion following the demise of the GDR, and even less analysis comparing the Catholic and Protestant churches. The lack of scholarly work contrasts with the number of statements, discussion papers, and theological articles published in the last decade by church officials and laymen. These publications are at the heart of my inquiry. 9 In discussing the role of the Protestant and Catholic churches and their associated organizations and agencies, and how they cope with the challenges brought by the collapse of the GDR and by institutional transfer, these publications point to conflicting conceptions of the churches' public role. Furthermore, they illustrate how religious actors con­ceive and construct their new relation to the state. Through the analysis of the debates that accompanied the reestablishment of the churches' unity, we attempt to outline the promoted church models, that is, what Protestant and Catholic actors consider to be the "most modern definition of the church and its public role." The material primarily addresses the issue of religious instruction and mil­itary chaplaincy—a minor field of activity—while it barely deals with the welfare service provisions. As the debates have not had the same intensity in all domains where churches and state interact, they suggest high and low tensions in the relations between churches and in the relations between religion and politics in the new Germany more generally.

From the material available and from descriptions of the situation, four obser­vations may be discerned that chart the historical and sociological problem at the core of this book. First, despite organizational ties cultivated by religious organi­zations in the GDR and the FRG, conflicts nonetheless arose concerning their role, their principles, and the practices that have impeded the churches' internal consolidation process. Second, the Protestant churches were much more affected by such internal dissension than were their Catholic counterparts. Third, dis­sension has arisen over the issue of church-state relations, but has not affected all domains where churches cooperate with state agencies. Fourth, it should also be noted that although "institutional transfer," the selected method of unification, affected the institutions of the former GDR much more than those`of the FRG, the former's institutions were not completely wiped out nor were the latter's left untouched. Some principles that were at least latently present in West Germany became accentuated during the "second phase of unification"; others acquired a dynamic of their own. As conflicts over the future model of church-state relations attest, the legitimacy of the transferred model is being questioned. In short, the transformation of religious organizations—and German unification—has been uneven and more complex than assumed by the implicated parties and scholars at the beginning of the 1990s.

Against the backdrop of such considerations, the present study aims to describe and explain the transformation of the Protestant and Catholic church-es' conception of their role, and the work carried out by specialist agents in bring­ing it about, following the remarkable events that paved the way to the collapse of the GDR and to German unification. For this purpose, I draw on Max Weber's sociology and make use of an "institutional analysis." Rainer Lepsius (1995d) argues indeed that Max Weber developed a theory of institutions or, to be more precise, a theory of institutionalization. The main issues, concepts, and dimensions raised by institutions should help us throw light onto the evolution of the churches' conception of their role in the GDR and, more generally, onto the mechanisms of their transformation following the demise of the socialist state and German unification. Further, they should help us to gain new insight into the work of religious agents to legitimate and delegitimate these conceptions in order to maintain or to challenge them, a process I refer to as the "politics of institutionalization." As what is generally termed the "positive experiences of the GDR and the 'Wende'" was particularly challenged following radical political change, special attention will be paid to its defendersl those who are polemically labeled the "conservative revolutionaries."

Nature in German History by Christof Mauch (Berghahn Books) Germany is a key test case for the burgeoning field of environmental history; in no other country has the landscape been so thoroughly politicized throughout its past as in Germany, and in no other country have ideas of `nature' figured so centrally in notions of national identity. The essays collected in this volume — the first collection on the subject in either English or German — place discussions of nature and the human relationship with nature in their political contexts. Taken together, they trace the gradual shift from a confident belief in humanity's ability to tame and manipulate the natural realm to the Umweltbewujl'tsein driving the contemporary conservation movement. Nature in German History also documents efforts to reshape the natural realm in keeping with ideological beliefs — such as the Romantic exultation of `the wild' and the Nazis' attempts to eliminate `foreign' flora and fauna — as well as the ways in which political issues have repeatedly been transformed into discussions of the environment in Germany.

The concept of the pristine character and "uncivilized" forms of nature that developed in the course of the nineteenth century were important factors for a wider appreciation of nature, particularly by the middle classes. The Heimatbe­wegung (homeland movement) became the most important driving force for a new understanding of the environment. Nature was now seen as a noble space of leisure and recreation and as a refuge from the "nervous sphere" of industry and urbanity. The defense of Heimat and the defense of nature became almost synonymous, at least in the realm of rhetoric. This was to change only in the 1970s, as Sandra Chaney shows in her essay here on nature and ideology in postwar West Germany, as new ideas about the environment underscoring the importance of healthy, unpolluted nature to human health and well-being gained currency. The appreciation of a healthy Umwelt (environment) became of more immediate importance, especially to city-dwellers, than the idea of an untainted Heimat. At the same time, concerns about pollution, widely promoted by the media, took center stage, as Franz-Josef Brüggemeier points out in his essay on Waldsterben.

Taken together, the essays presented here leave no doubt that the meanings attached to nature have changed over time: from nature as something to be feared to nature as something to be appreciated; from a specific philosophical concept to a collective belief system; from a concept identified with cultural space to one identified with health. These different meanings did not emerge one after the other in neat chronological order, but the shifts in thinking about nature can nonetheless be incorporated within the larger framework of German political and cultural history.

The insight the essays of this volume provide—that our ideas shape our relationship with nature and thereby the natural environment itself—is perhaps the most important one. 'While nature itself and the meanings we identify with it are in constant change, our minds also play a crucial role in our interaction with the physical environment—in our decisions to try to tame or manipulate nature, for instance, or to preserve complex natural habitats. David Blackbourn's essay in this collection outlines the ambitions of an absolute ruler who set out to drain seemingly "barbarous" marshlands and the means he employed to do so. Marc Cioc demonstrates how utilitarian ideals turned an untamed and mean­dering Rhine into a functional, fast-flowing channel. Linda Parshall discusses the ways in which one German princeling manipulated nature in order to create a vast landscape park consistent with his vision of an aesthetic and social utopia.

All these essays suggest that nature has a place both in physical reality and in our minds. They see nature as more than something "out there" but also as some-thing more than a social or cultural construction. Taken together, the essays demonstrate that our images of nature can be translated into social and eco­nomic, architectural and scientific, political and environmental activity.

Historians of the environment have often been accused of being politically motivated. This is in fact hardly ever the case, certainly not in the essays pre­sented here. Nevertheless, the insights that this volume conveys are indeed polit­ical. They demonstrate that the relationship between humanity and nature is one of "multiple feedback effects" and that there is much more room for maneuver in (re)shaping this relationship than one might at first assume. The story of nature in Germany is not one of loss, but of change. A historical approach to nature pre­sents us with the opportunity to study the evolution of ideas and activities as they relate to nature. Many ideas are specific to the German experience, but most are also paradigmatic and relevant for the study of nature everywhere. They provide us with insights into the role of technology in managing and changing nature, into the influence of extreme (totalitarian) ideology on ideas of nature, and into nature and environmental consciousness in an increasingly urban world with ever fewer, ever smaller patches of wilderness.

Fanny Lewald and Nineteenth-Century Constructions of Femininity by Vanessa Van Ornam (North American Studies in Nineteenth-Century German Literature: Peter Lang) Fanny Lewald (1811—1889) was one of the nineteenth century’s best-selling German women writers and a recognized activist for women’s rights. Twentieth-century scholarship has emphasized a gap between her progressive essays on the subject of the “woman question” and her more traditional fiction, which appeared to perpetuate the stereotypes of middle-class women dominant in the discourses of her culture. However, Fanny Lewald and Nineteenth-Century Constructions of Femininity, written by Vanessa Van Ornam, a writer and translator living in Berlin and former Assistant Professor of German at Middlebury College , identifies strategies of dissent in Lewald’s fiction as well. It examines the role of various discourses—such as medicine, law, education, and the family—as gender-producing agents in the nineteenth century and focuses on Lewald’s textual collusion with and resistance to this process of production.

Contents include:

  1. Introduction – “Werde Weib, Sophie!” Yes, But How?
  2. “Wollen Sie mit einer Kranken rechten? Lassen Sie ihr den Willen!”: Lewald and Nineteenth-Century Medical Discourse
  3. “Die Frauen sind die Repräsentanten der Liebe wie die Männer des Rechts”: Lewald’s Revisions of the Female “Rechtsperson”
  4. “Behandelt uns wie Männer, damit wir tüchtige Frauen werden können”: Lewald and Her Contemporaries on Women’s Education
  5. “Daβ dir ziehe Glück ins Haus / Schaue nicht zu weit hinaus!”: Lewald and Domestic Ideology
  6. Conclusion: Re-Reading Sophie

In recent decades critics have lauded Lewald’s perceptive and critical essays on the subject of the position of women, particularly with respect to education and employment, while arguing that her fiction uncritically reproduced cultural norms of feminine behavior as nature. Fanny Lewald and Nineteenth-Century Constructions of Femininity demonstrates these texts also exhibit an awareness of the exigencies of nineteenth-century femininity and of the way in which contemporary discourses determine them.

The book requires some degree of comfort with the German language for complete appreciation.

Secret Germany: Stefan George and His Circle by Robert Norton (Cornell University Press) Stefan George (1868-1933) has not made the impression in Anglophone countries as his young admirer Rainer Maria Rilke has. His poetry and ideas are not well known outside Germany , nor has his own influence been put into the context of Anglo-American letters that so enthralled the pre-WWI political and poetic ideas and images.

It is true Stefan George's disciples and friends eventually became the cultural establishment of Germany , occupying important chairs in German universities in literature, history, psychology, economics and publishing some of the most influential works in their fields. Norton’s work then comes to fill a important gap in our knowledge about fin-de-siècle culture and politics. It is the most comprehensive biography of George to appear in English, exploring the facets of the  poet, teacher and guru as well as his circle's more direct consequences.  Norton demonstrates a deep familiarity with George and his Parisian and German cultural, intellectual and political settings from the 1880s to1933.  Norton continuously investigates and analyses the poet's character through his poems, letters, and relationships with his friends. It is fitting that this biographical study removes the glitter of the previous accounts of the George circle, Which is not known for its candor and has even maintained a cult of silence for decades after the poet’s death.
 The source of this covert dissimulation was George himself who took great care to control the image of himself and his work available to the outside world. In 1930 he had an gullible devotee, Friedrich Wolters, produce an authorized history of his life and circle. Every word has his imprimatur. Another sycophant, Ernst Morwitz, wrote an account of Stefan George's poetry. George's friend and testamentary heir, Robert Boehringer, assembled many further details under the title, Mein Bild von Stefan George, with a companion volume of photographs. Other friends who published recollections include the economist Edgar Salin, the sculptor Ludwig Thormaehlen, and the philosopher Edith Landmann-Kalischer. In 1972 three scholars in collaboration published a day-to-day chronology of the`George's life. But only in the later 1970s did the papers that Robert Boehringer had inherited become generally accessible in the Stefan George Archiv in Stuttgart . The Castrum Peregrini archive in Amsterdam also preserves a great body of Georgeana; the Deutsches Literaturarchiv in Marbach holds Karl Wolfskehl's papers; and Friedrich Gundolf's papers are in London University 's Institute of  Germanic Studies .  The papers of one of Stefan George's close friends, Ernst Morwitz, will remain closed for years to come. Persons who were close to the poet  have followed George’s lead and have long prevented scrutiny of his papers.  This was partly routine among the initiates of an exclusive semi-secret society; but it had additionally seemed necessary because of all-too obvious affinities between ideas propagated by Stefan George and the National Socialists.  Friends and custodians exerted pressure to suppress anything critical about him and his circle.  Failure to respond in an approved manner could lead to ostracism, denial of access to archival sources and refusal of interviews. Norton had plenty of evidence but much of it needed to be reframed from the censorious state it has been held.
Secret Germany
manages to evoke the occult mystery that George systematically pursued. This small band of devoted followers sworn to his views of humanity, culture, influence, and power After groping experiments with symbolist, anarchist and ostensibly apolitical beginnings in the 1880s, George soon became interested in replacing the bourgeois society that he despised with his own heroic male society.  He became a poet and teacher with frankly political`objectives by the time the First World War began, and he played the role continuously until his death on December 4, 1933 .
Norton shows George's development through the stages of his spiritual-intellectual kingdom, from uncertain beginnings including an early wavering between becoming a French poet or a German one, through the gradual realization of his abilities and calling.  By 1899 George had established his place as a German poet with an international reputation, combining poetic creativity with friendships and with his homoerotic impulses.  By 1908 he had severed unsatisfactory intellectual liaisons and become a pedagogue in his own right.  He was ready for a further stage to which Norton gives the comprehensive heading "Politician: 1909-1918."  The last phase, "Prophet:  1919-1933," is the culmination of the poet's life, and of Norton's analysis of his role.  It is George's ambivalent yet purposeful and relentless progenitor of The New Reich--the title of his last collection of poems published in 1928.  
There will always be admirers of Stefan George who will emphasize what they see as the attractive elements in his ideas.  But Norton has concluded that the pernicious predominated in George's ideas and conduct. His hope to revivify German culture through a secret cortège of cultural workers whose ideas were the state. After the two world wars, the circle's secretive elitism has turn into an embarrassment. George's anti-Jewish utterances are well attested.  And Norton shows that George well understood the central importance of anti-Semitism in Hitler's ideology and practice.  In May 1933 the Hitler government wanted to co-opt George for the Prussian Academy for the Arts.  George declined the offer but authorized the government to say:  "I do not at all deny being the forefather of the new national movement and also do not put aside my intellectual collaboration. What I was able to do for it I have done--the youth who gather around me today share my view .. the fairy tale of my aloofness has accompanied me in my entire life--this only appears to be so to unaided eyes."  
Norton's emphasis on the hard and cruel side of George raises the question of how much weight ought to be given to the testimony of the poet's friends and disciples.  They testify to the his kindness and wisdom in which they felt themselves warmly and securely enveloped.  Words such as love, flower and happiness are as prominent or more prominent in George's poems than master, murder, victory, destroy, force and death.  Norton sees murderous mayhem and violence advocated in many of George's poems;  using the poet's own words, he dismisses, as George did, the "flattering sweet tones" and arcadian murmurings as deliberate deception. After reading Norton, there is certainly no need to read more of what the poet's enemies had to say.  But perhaps the differing views of the George's friends are too summarily dismissed.  
Norton states in his preface that "it was not the poet George who originally interested me when I set out to write this biography," but his role in helping to make the monstrous crimes of Hitler's National Socialists thinkable and possible:  "If this book has any larger purpose, then it will be that it succeeds in making comprehensible how sensitive, intelligent, and deeply cultivated people, how humane lovers of poetry and beauty, and not just brutish, bloodthirsty thugs, could have embraced an ideology that held death at its core.”  
Stefan George's contribution to the most murderous time in German history is intangible.  It may be seen in his insensitive lack of humanity toward those who did not measure up to his standards and who could not be his followers, that is to say, most of humankind.  To appear to welcome "the extinction of large segments of humanity,” to propose the total annihilation of the United States of America
as "the enemy of all culture," does seem to be an extreme form of disdain.  


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