Vernacular Literary Theory in the Middle Ages

Vernacular Literary Theory in the Middle Ages : The German Tradition, 800-1300, in its European Context

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The first edition of this book appeared in German in 1985, and set an agenda for the study of medieval literary theory. Rather than seeing vernacular writers' reflections on their art, as found in prologues, epilogues and interpolations in literary texts, as merely deriving from established Latin traditions, Walter Haug shows that they marked the gradual emancipation of an independent vernacular poetics that went hand in hand with changing narrative forms. While focusing primarily on medieval German writers, Haug also takes into account French literature of the same period, and the principles underlying his argument are equally relevant to medieval literature in English or any other European language.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 444 pages
  • 152 x 226 x 36mm | 780.17g
  • CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0521027993
  • 9780521027991
  • 1,798,504

Review quote

'... an intelligent, sparkling book.' Neue Zurcher Zeitung '... it is to be hoped that this brilliant and lively book will quickly find a readership in related disciplines of study.' Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift

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Back cover copy

The first edition of this book appeared in German in 1985, and set a new agenda for the study of medieval literary theory. Rather than seeing vernacular writers' reflections on their art, such as are found in prologues, epilogues and interpolations in literary texts, as merely deriving from established Latin traditions, Walter Haug shows that they marked the gradual emancipation of an independent vernacular poetics that went hand in hand with changing narrative forms. While focussing primarily on medieval German writers, Haug also takes into account French literature of the same period, and the principles underlying his argument are equally relevant to medieval literature in English or any other European language. This ground-breaking study is now available in English for the first time.

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Table of contents

Translator's preface; Preface to the English edition; Introductory remarks; 1. The background: Christian aesthetics versus classical rhetoric; 2. The problem of the vernacular: Otfrid von Weissenburg and the beginnings of literary theory in Old High German; 3. Literature, allegory and salvation: theoretical positions in Early Middle High German; 4. Religious adaptation of secular forms: the Rolandslied, Brautwerbungsepen ('bridal quests'), the Alexander romance; 5. Chretien de Troyes' prologue to Erec et Enide and the Arthurian structural model; 6. Divine inspiration and the changing role of the poet in Chretien's Lancelot and Cliges; 7. Hartmann von Aue's fictional programme: the prologue to Iwein; 8. Hagiographical legend or romance? - Hartmann's prologue to Gregorius; 9. Wolfram von Eschenbach's literary theory: the prologue to Parzival, the metaphor of the bow, and the 'self-defence'; 10. Wolfram's Willehalm: a return to historical romance?; 11. Ethics and aesthetics: Gottfried von Strassburg's literary theory; 12. The truth of fiction: Thomasin von Zerkl're and integumentum theory; 13. The Lucidarius A-prologue in the context of contemporary literary theory, and the origins of the prose romance; 14. Magic, morals and manipulation: the emergence of the post-classical Arthurian romance; 15. Rudolf von Ems' Der guote Gerhart: a programmatic rejection of the correlation between merit and reward; 16. Chance, fortune and virtue: Rudolf von Ems' Alexander; 17. Wolfram's prologue to Willehalm: a model for later hagiographical romances; 18. The new genre of love-romance: suffering as a way to fulfilment. From Rudolf von Ems' Willehalm von Orlens to Ulrich von Etzenbach's Willehalm von Wenden; 19. Konrad von Wurzburg: spellbinding artistry and individual moral action; 20. Albrecht's Der jungere Titurel: magic and moral code in the inscription on the hound's leash; Concluding remarks; Bibliography; Index.

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