Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Freundschaft in der Höfischen Epik Um 1200. Diskurse Von Nahbeziehungen

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Freundschaft in der Höfischen Epik Um 1200. Diskurse Von Nahbeziehungen

Article excerpt

Caroline Krüger, Freundschaft in der höfischen Epik um 1200. Diskurse von Nahbeziehungen (Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, 201 1). xi + 362 pp. ISBN 978- 3- 11- 022860- 1. euro99.95.

Friendship is a basic human bond, like love and kinship. And like love, it constituted one of the great themes of the intellectual revival of the twelfth century, as monastic authors such as Mixed of Rievaulx rediscovered Cicero and discussed matters of spiritual friendship. In the same period, it was also a theme in the secular literature that began to flourish at the courts of the Frenchand German-speaking aristocracies. Yet unlike love and kinship, friendship in courtly narrative literature has scarcely been studied. Caroline Kriiger's book, the revised version of her Freiburg doctoral dissertation of 2009, seeks to remedy this gap.

Roughly the first third of the book is devoted to theoretical and historical preliminaries. A survey of sociological, historical, and medievalist research on friendship (ch. 1) is followed by an account of the late antique background, in particular the Christian appropriation and transformation of pagan philosophical discourses of friendship by Augustine and John Cassian (ch. 2). The discussion of friendship in courtly narratives is divided into two chapters: a short case study of Chretien's Yvain and Hartmann's Iwein (ch. 3), and a much longer systematic typology of literary friendships as these are portrayed and narrated in Old French and Middle Fligh German epics and romances (ch. 4). The case study focuses on the protagonist's relationship with Gauvain/Gawein, which represents a social ideal of friendship based on virtue. It is a constant of the narrative; it is structurally significant, because Gauvein/Gawein provides the link between the otherwise unconnected realms of the Arthurian court and the magic fountain; in Hartmann's version, it also attracts narratorial commentary on the strong bonds of loyalty between friends. The systematic chapter is the core of the book, almost as long as the other chapters put together. Friendships are classified according to gender, and according to whether the friends are equal partners (symmetrical) or whether there are differences of rank, status, or power (asymmetrical). With regard to gender, the author observes that courtly narratives give far more space to male friendships than to female ones (surely notable, in view of the emphasis of recent scholarship on women as patrons and addressees of romances); there is also more discussion of friendship between men in non-literary sources, which means that literary male friendships may be placed in a dense network of alternative discourses. …

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