Academic journal article German Quarterly

Wirnt von Grafenberg's 'Wigalois'. Intertextuality and Interpretation

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Wirnt von Grafenberg's 'Wigalois'. Intertextuality and Interpretation

Article excerpt

Thomas, Neil. Wirnt von Grafenberg's 'Wigahis'. Intertextuaiity and Interpretation. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2005.184 pp. $75.00 hardcover.

Study of the later or "minor " medieval German Arthurian romances has undergone a marked change in recent decades. Once often dismissed as paler imitations of Hartmann, Gottfried, and Wolfram, the works of the putative Epigpnen have not only been rehabilitated as subjects of appreciative study in their own right, but they have been in some cases proposed for inclusion in a new, more differentiated canon of medieval German literature. Neil Thomas's study of Wirnt von Grafenberg's Wigalois represents one such attempt to promote a more discerning reading of the work in context.

Following an introduction which outlines the "problematic reception" of Wigalois, the work's five chapters deal with "Contesting the Canon," "Knights of Fortune," "Saint and Sinner," "Realism and Realpolitik," and "Romance and Exemplum," respectively. Appended is a summary of plots of ten related romances, including Durmart Ie Galois and Les Merveilles de Rigomer. A bibliography and index conclude the study.

Thomas proceeds along well-delineated lines to advance his central arguments: first, that Wigalois is consciously engaged in "literary dissent" (7), not only from the larger European "Fair Unknown" tradition, but also more particularly from Wolfram's Parzival; and second, that "the narrator's undaunted partisanship for Gawan permits him to undergo a moral rehabilitation" (8). The central reservation which Thomas purports to later writers, including Wirnt, is that "many works of the classical generation were adjudged to be problematical in either a formal or moral sense" (13).

The call to "remove the works of Hartmann and Wolfram from their privileged position" (21 ) is prominent in advancing a critical reading of Wirnt. According to Thomas, Wirnt "rejects the bipartite structure" of Parzival in favor of a "linear sequence... better suited to his pedagogic aims, evidently wishing to show his protagonist as being morally superior to Erec, Iwein and Parzival" (37-38). …

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