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The "Pernerstorfer Circle"
by Bret Battey

The Pernerstorfer Circle was a group of late- 19th-century Viennese intellectuals who developed and shared a collective outlook. This outlook strongly influenced their individual activities within their own specialties, including politics, philosophy, poetry, music, and theatre. The core of the Circle was formed in the 1870s as a reading group in social democratic literature. One can trace the development of common ideas within the group through the end of the century, when the Circle divided into those most interested in political activism and those most inspired by Wagner's aesthetic-religious path. By the first decade of the 20th century, key members of the group occupied prominent and influential positions in the cultural and political life of Austria, most notably Victor Adler and Gustav Mahler.

The Pernerstorfer Circle is one striking example among the numerous reading societies and discussion groups which were deeply integrated into the culture of 19th-century Vienna. Such groups facilitated a dynamic intersection between philosophy, politics, and the arts. The Circle provides a glimpse at the way in which numerous influential figures in turn of the century Vienna were steeped in concerns and activity outside of their own realm of specialization via significant and influential contact with each-other.

Links to articles on a selection of influences, members, and specific interactions of interest appear below. The list is not intended to be comprehensive. The primary source for this information is William J. McGrath's Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974).


Friedrich Nietzsche
Arthur Schopenhauer
Richard Wagner

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Engelbert Pernerstorfer,
journalist, politician
Gustav Mahler,
composer, conductor

Lipiner and Mahler

Victor Adler,
doctor, politician

Critique of liberalism / Vision of radical social change and renewal


German nationalism, Volk ideology, and racism

Dionysian transcendence



Siegfried Lipiner,
poet, translator, journalist

Der Musiker spricht

Cover to Adam/Hippolytos
Richard von Kralik,
dramatist, poet
Max von Gruber,
doctor, professor
Heinrich Friedjung,
historian, journalist, politician
Hugo Wolf,


First Posted:
March 30, 1999 by Bret Battey
Revision History: