Every morning I worked in the college library, checking out books and scouring the shelves for works that my American, British, and French literature professors left out. Everyafternoon, I took summer school classes: Chaucer in June-July and Culture and Civilization of Modern Germany in July-August.
When I took Introduction to German Literature a few months before, Dr. Weber tried hard to prove that Death in Venice had nothing to do with gay people. But now the gloves were off: Homosexualitat absolutely, emphatically, did not exist in 20th century Germany.
What about Stefan George (1868-1933), who became obsessed with an adolescent named Maximilian Kronberger? When the boy died of meningitis on the day after his sixteenth birthday in 1904, George wrote a series of poems, The Seventh Ring (1907), which described their encounter as that of a mortal meeting a god (in Dante's Inferno, the seventh "ring" of hell is inhabited by sodomites). Eventually the "Cult of Maximin" drew a circle of gay artists and writers.
According to Dr. Weber, Maximin represented the symbolist quest for beauty for its own sake. No Homosexualitat.
What about the physical culture movement, a celebration of the male body, often nude, a fascination with gymnastics, boxing, and track and field, arguably the origin of modern athletics? (Franz Kafka, author of The Metamorphosis, was a devotee).
Dr. Weber: the glorification of male bodies was a remedy to the feminization of German culture among the symbolists. No Homosexualitat.
At least he Said the Word several times.
He positively refused to discuss the gay symbolism of Steppenwolf, by Herman Hesse, or Der Eigene, the first gay magazine in the world, published from 1896 to 1932. An offshoot of the physical culture movement, it had over 1500 subscribers and contributors like Thomas Mann and Wilhelm von Gloeden.
See also: The Gay Werewolf of Steppenwolf; and Death in Venice.