The Challenge of the Medieval Text: Studies in Genre and Interpretation

By W. T. H. Jackson; Joan M. Ferrante et al. | Go to book overview

4
Persona and Audience
in Two Medieval Love-Lyrics

CRITICS HAVE LONG since abandoned the idea that the German Minnesang is a mere offshoot of Provençal lyric. In spite of the conventions, the imagery, and many formal characteristics which the German lyric borrows from the Romance, it is clear that there are major differences in attitude and that the German poets, while using the forms of their predecessors, are often asking different questions and answering those questions in different ways. Yet little attempt has been made at direct comparison between poems, and it would perhaps be useful to compare a Provençal poem with a German lyric in order to see whether any conclusions of general value can be obtained. By comparing the two poems, it may be possible to throw some light on such considerations as the relationship between the external audience for the poem and the internal audience of the poet-persona and on the power of the genre-form to shape the poet's approach to the love-theme. In approaching these problems I shall distinguish between the lover-persona, the figure within the poem who loves and suffers, and the poet-persona, whose task it is to express that love in a form which will help the lover and overcome the lady's resistance. It is thus the poet-persona, not the lover-persona, who performs love-service. Not all canzon and Minnelieder distinguish between these two personae, but the distinction can very frequently be observed and many apparent contradictions in the poems and still more apparent breaks in the sequence of thought can be best explained by assuming such a double persona. It is particularly important to observe that the service which is so integral a part of the genre means different things to the two

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