Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Cambridge History of German Literature

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Cambridge History of German Literature

Article excerpt

The Cambridge History of German Literature ed. Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). xiii + 613 pp. ISBN 0521-43417--3. L65.00.

Given the fact that no authoritative account in English of the history of German literature during the Middle Ages has been published during the past decade, one is delighted to find two substantial chapters devoted to the period in this history `designed for the general reader as well as the advanced student'.

Brian F. Murdoch's coverage of the Carolingian period and the early Middle ARes (75o-i loo) takes full acount of the fact that the emergence of written tradition in German takes place in the context of an established Latin literature written by German speakers. Starting with a survey of Latin literature produced in each of the three periods that fall within his purview Carolingian, Ottonian, eleventh century - Murdoch proceeds to discuss the manifestations of German literary activity - functional writing, religious poetry, heroic poems, Notker's translations, and eleventh-century religious literature - in their interplay with Latin writing. The transmission of the works and its relevance for our understanding receive due consideration. The wealth of detailed factual information is balanced by in-depth analysis of major works (Otfried's Evangelienbuch, Hildebrandslied, and Waltharius) and a clear narrative line. Well-chosen quotes with translations contribute to the liveliness and readability of the account.

In order to overcome the problems of chronology posed by the literature of the high and later Middle Ages (1100-145o) Nigel F. Palmer adopts a topic-based and genre-related approach in structuring his contribution, with sections on secular narrative (twelfth-century, developments z zoo-iz 5o, thirteenth-century Arthurian romance), on lyric poetry between 1150 and 1300, and on religious literature, such as hagiography, spiritual biography, drama. …

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