Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Parallel Narratives: Function and Form in the Munich Illustrated Manuscripts of 'Tristan' and 'Willehalm Von Orlens'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Parallel Narratives: Function and Form in the Munich Illustrated Manuscripts of 'Tristan' and 'Willehalm Von Orlens'

Article excerpt

Julia C. Walworth, Parallel Narratives: Function and Form in the Munich Illustrated Manuscripts of 'Tristan' and 'Willehalm von Orlens', King's College London Medieval Studies 20 (London: King's College London, Centre for Late Antique & Medieval Studies, 2007). xxiv + 345 pp. ISBN 978-0-95398382-7. £23.00.

Parallel Narratives has been developed from what was originally the author's doctoral thesis (Yale, 1991), which has had considerable impact on the scholarship on early illustrated manuscripts of German vernacular epics. Like the thesis Julia C. Walworth's book deals with two thirteenth-century manuscripts, now kept in Munich, Cgm 51 (Tristan) and Cgm 63 (Willehalm von Orlens) ; both of them exhibit picture pages with two or three registers. Her aim is to discuss the 'significance' of the pictorial cycles, which she sees as closely related to the question of how the individual manuscripts would have been used. Consequendy, her analysis is framed by thoughts about the status of these manuscripts in the history of reading. Cgm 51 and the slighdy later Cgm 63 are seen to exemplify early forms of private reading in the vernacular: 'Given the nature of its illustrations, the Tristan manuscript could be "read" by an illiterate, semi-literate or literate person, whereas the picture cycle in the Willehalm von Orlens is more integrated with and more dependent on the text' (p. xxii).

The main part of the book starts with an oudine of the current state of research. Then the selection of scenes in the Tristan manuscript is discussed as well as the visual organization of the registers and pages. The same questions are addressed for the Willehalm, but in more condensed form. While the relationship between text and picture is different in the two manuscripts, both are shown to draw on conventional motifs. The conclusion is a summary of how the pictorial narratives in the two manuscripts function, describing them as good sources for exploring 'the lay experience of visual reading at a seminal moment in the history of the secular fictional book' (p. …

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