Medieval German Literature

Medieval German Literature

Medieval German Literature

Medieval German Literature


Medieval German Literature provides a comprehensive survey of this Germanic body of work from the eighth century through the early fifteenth century. The authors treat the large body of late-medieval lyric poetry in detail for the first time.


This book is intended to serve as a source of information for those who are interested in the study of Medieval German literature. It can be used as a reference book or read straight through for an overview. The arrangement of the book may appear at first as somewhat unorthodox, but we feel that it supports our concept. After a brief discussion of what is meant by the “Middle Ages, ” there follows a short discussion of the history of the German language, so that readers will have some idea of what is meant, for example, by OHG, EMHG, etc. when they come across such terms later in the book. Next comes a section on the many resources available for the study of medieval German literature. Here some very useful tools are listed for various topics of importance to such study.

The authors recognize that only a few major literary works of the classical period of Middle High German have reached a wider public. We have attempted therefore to present them in the context of German literature from its beginnings to 1400 and its historical background. The structure of our book is thus basically chronological, but it is also generic. We make no claims to comprehensive coverage nor to uniform depth on all the works we treat, yet we hope to enable our readers to attain both if they wish or to be judiciously selective in areas of special interest. The material presented here follows the traditional canon.

In planning our book we asked ourselves the following questions: What do people really have to know for the study of medieval German literature? What are the important works? What do they deal with? Why are they significant? What is characteristic about them? What is their historical and cultural background? And above all, how can one find out more about them? Though they lay no claim to completeness, our answers to these questions will be found, we hope, on the following pages. We should like to think of this volume not only as a source of essential information about medieval German literature as a whole but also as a handy reference work for those in other areas or periods of Medieval Studies who need some knowledge of specific areas of early German literature.

Although our treatment of individual works varies according to their particular qualities and demands, we have tried to provide broadly similar types of information for each one in addition to answers to the questions above: something about the manuscript tradition; available editions, translations, facsimiles; the problems that scholars have encountered and tried to solve; and a short bibliography of pertinent secondary literature. The bibliographical references have been chosen with an eye towards ready availability, relative currency, and significance. When the contents or importance of a book or article did not seem to emerge clearly from the title, we have provided a line or two of explanatory description. For one important group of our intended readers, we have tried wher-

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