A short introduction to the Literary Culture of the High ...

A short introduction to the Literary Culture of the High ...

A Short Introduction to the German Literary Culture of the High Middle Ages Traditionally known among literary scholars as --the Bltezeit, or period of flourishing. --or, the Stauferzeit the reign of the Hohenstaufen emperors: Frederick I (Barbarossa), Henrich VI, Frederick II -- Court Literature (literature produced at the courts of powerful nobles, who were the patrons of the poets) The Historical Context --The Twelfth Century Renaissance (Charles Haskins) --The beginning assimilation of new philosophical

and scientific texts (early Scholasticism) --The Crusades --Gothic architecture and art The rise of literatures in the vernacular languages -- Strong influences from French literature, which developed earlier. -- Literatures the relationship between orality and literacy is dynamic. -- The Auffhrungssituation, or situation of performance. Literature was originally a performative art. -- The importance of the ministeriales in literary

culture. The significant genres Lyric Poetry -- Love Songs -- political / didactic poetry Epic Poetry -- Heroic Epics -- romanz (Romance) Drama None to speak of in the strict sense. Cultural Developments during the Bltezeit: --The literature of the Bltezeit demonstrates a welling up of

religious / spiritual experience among lay people (in this case necessarily the lay nobility). -- The convergence of this religiosity / spirituality with the values and interests of the lay nobility gives rise to a variety of interesting literary themes and structures. -- The court literature of the High Middle Ages particularly the romances endeavor to accommodate sometimes conflicting values and interests . . . . . . and achieve this by virtue of an increased indeterminacy or open-endedness. What is the right way to live? Walther von der Vogelweide I sat on a stone and crossed my

legs and put my hand against my chin and thought anxiously about the right way to live in this world. I could not figure out how to bring three things together in such a way that one would not ruin the other two. Two of these things are honor and possessions the interest in one of these often damages the interest in the other. And the third is the grace of God, which is the crown of the other two.

Romance as a new Narrative Art Form The matter of Rome and the matter of Britain. Romance: a verse narrative about love and adventure (the definition expands to include prose vernacular narratives that began to be produced in the 13th century). Note that love and adventure are inherently worldly, secular concerns. From M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, Chapter: Epic and Novel

On epic poetry: The epic world achieves a radical degree of completeness not only in its content but in its meaning and values as well. The epic world is constructed in the zone of an absolute distanced image, beyond the sphere of possible contact with the developing, incomplete and therefore rethinking and re-evaluating present. Bakhtin on the Novel (and by implication, Romance, as its older relative) Basic idea: the novel engages the present in all of its open-endedness.

On the novelization of other genres ( a long quote just remember the last idea!): What are the salient features of this novelization of other genres suggested by us? They become more free and flexible they become permeated with laughter, irony, humor, elements of self-parody and finally this is the most important thing the novel inserts into these other genres an indeterminacy, a certain semantic open-endedness, a living contact with unfinished, still evolving contemporary reality (the openended present). --For our time-period, substitute romancingfor novelization. Gottfried von Strassburgs Tristan

Gottfried was among the more educated of the medieval authors and presumably lived in Strasbourg hence, in urban surroundings. His Tristan was composed ca. 1210 and based on the Tristan of an AngloNorman poet named Thomas. The Tristan narrative material was part of the Matter of Britain (sometimes found in the orbit of King Arthur) Other, earlier versions of the Tristan story were produced by Broul (in French) and Eilhart von Oberge (in German) Gottfried says they didnt get the story right!

The versions of Thomas and Gottfried are the poetically and rhetorically most accomplished ones. Gottfrieds poem, in particular, is known for its rhetorically polished and adorned verses, and for its challenging aesthetic conception: --the conception in a nutshell, the adulterous love of Tristan and Isolde is an Absolute --Worth repeating: the conception in a nutshell, the adulterous love of Tristan and Isolde is Absolute From the Prologue of Gottfrieds Tristan: -- Referring to the story of Tristan and Isolde: This is bread to all noble hearts. With this their death

lives on. We read their life, we read their death, and to us it is as sweet as bread. Their life, their death are our bread. Thus lives their life, thus lives their death. Thus they live still, and yet are dead, and their death is the bread of the living. The Nibelungenlied The Nibelungen material has its origins in the migration period (5 th and 6th centuries) In contrast to the courtly narratives, it is basically Germanic and epic (remember Bakhtins conception of epic poetry).

The Nibelungenlied is one of numerous versions of the story of Siegfried and the Burgundian Kings, who die in the end in a battle at the court of Etzel (Attila the Hun). The Nibelungenlied was composed ca. 1210 by an anonymous poet (anonymity being typical in the authorship of epic poetry) though considered epic poetry, the Nibelungenlied has been largely shaped by the contemporary romances. Romancing Epic Poetry: The Nibelungenlied The character Siegfried shows an interesting double-nature that demonstrates the influence of the romances, with their concerns of love and adventure, on the hero: --He is a fighter of mythic proportions, who has slain a

dragon, and bested whole armies single-handedly the corresponding epic terms: degen, recke. -- He also participates in courtly festivals, tournaments, and falls in love with the beautiful Kriemhilde: the love causes him sometimes to become weak-kneed and turn red as a beet. Besides being a degen, he is also a rter! In the end the logic of the heroic epic asserts itself. Ther is no courtly happy ending. Conclusion A reiteration of a position, or argument, that I made earlier: -- Romance (stories of love and adventure) introduce an indeterminacy into medieval

narrative art. -- narratives thus get closer to being able to express reality as something that is open-ended and indeterminate (i.e. subject to chance, contingency, local influences, etc.)

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