Academic journal article German Quarterly

Ava's New Testament Narratives: "When the Old Law Passed Away"

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Ava's New Testament Narratives: "When the Old Law Passed Away"

Article excerpt

12th-17th Century Literature and Culture Rushing, James A., Jr.Ava's New Testament Narratives: "When the Ola Law Passed Away. " Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2003. 235 pp. $12.00 paperback.

This second volume in a promising new series is a welcome addition to the growing number of conventionally non-canonical texts made available in re-issued editions and conveniently, in this series, also a facing-page English translation. While there is little about the texts published here-either the subject matter or the aesthetic quality of the poetry-that would necessarily draw the reader's interest to these four very conventional verse paraphrases of traditional narratives based on the New Testament and patristic material, the authorial and historical contexts nonetheless make them all the more interesting. These early twelfth-century vernacular poems were written by a laywoman named Ava, and are thus the earliest extant German texts composed by a woman whom we can identify by name. Beyond her name, however, nothing definite is known about the author. It is nonetheless likely that she is to be identified with Ava the anchorite (Ava indusd) who died in 1127, as noted in the records of several Austrian monastic institutions.

The corpus consists of four texts: "Johannes," "Das Leben Jesu," "Der Antichrist," and "Das jungste Gericht," which focus very strictly on traditional narrative material and especially on the theme of redemption, which is the driving force of the four narratives. No information about the author, provenance, or historical situation of the author finds its way into the texts. The style of the poems is consistent with dating them to the early twelfth century, and the author's frequent inclusion of a wide variety of Latin words and phrases in her German almost certainly demonstrates a strong knowledge of Latin. Ava composed the poems during the transitional phase between the Old High German period and the classical period of Middle High German literature. …

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