In eighteenth-century Germany, the aesthetician Friedrich Wilhelm Basileus Ramdohr could write of the phenomenon of men who evoke sexual desire in other men; Johann Joachim Winckelmann could place admiration of male beauty at the center of his art criticism; and admirers and detractors alike of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, felt constrained to comment upon the ruler's obvious preference for men over women. In German cities of the period, men identified as "warm brothers" wore broad pigtails powdered in the back, and developed a particular discourse of friendship, classicism, Orientalism, and fashion.
There is much evidence, Robert D. Tobin contends, that something was happening in the semantic field around male-male desire in late eighteenth-century Germany, and that certain signs were coalescing around "a queer proto-identity." Today, we might consider a canonical author of the period such as Jean Paul a homosexual; we would probably not so identify Goethe or Schiller. But for Tobin, queer subtexts are found in the writings of all three and many others.
Warm Brothers analyzes classical German writers through the lens of queer theory. Beginning with sodomitical subcultures in eighteenth-century Germany, it examines the traces of an emergent homosexuality and shows the importance of the eighteenth century for the nineteenth-century sexologists who were to provide the framework for modern conceptualizations of sexuality. One of the first books to document male-male desire in eighteenth-century German literature and culture, Warm Brothers offers a much-needed reappraisal of the classical canon and the history of sexuality.