Academic journal article German Quarterly

Ardent Complaints and Equivocal Piety. The Portrayal of the Crusader in Medieval German Poetry

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Ardent Complaints and Equivocal Piety. The Portrayal of the Crusader in Medieval German Poetry

Article excerpt

Medieval Literature and Culture Jackson, William E. Ardent Complaints and Equivocal Piety. The Portrayal of the Crusader in Medieval German Poetry. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2003. 146 pp. $28.00 paperback.

In the context of renewed interest in the crusades in political and popular rhetoric since September 2001, William E. Jackson's recent book on the crusader in medieval German poetry seems particularly timely. Stating the main focus of his study to be "a group of medieval German poems portraying the crusader facing battle" (1), Jackson offers a reading of poems written roughly between 1190 and 1230. The authors of these poems are generally known: Friedrich von Hausen, Hartmann von Aue, Albrecht von Johansdorf, Reinmar der Alte, Otto von Botenlauben, Friedrich von Leiningen, the Burggraf von lienz. Of these, only Friedrich von Hausen is documented as having participated in the Third Crusade.

After an introductory section on Latin crusade poetry of the 12th century, Jackson situates his discussion of German crusade poetry around the Battle of Hattin in 1187; this battle, in which Saladin defeated Christian forces, is viewed as a major turning point not only in the Third Crusade and in crusading history but also in the literature of the crusades. Throughout the book, Jackson compares German and Latin reactions to the battle, attempting to place the German poetry within the Latin literary context as well as within the historical context after 1187, though the argument is momentarily confused by an unfortunate typographical error on page 10 that dates the battle in 1887.

Jackson considers three categories of poems written in the German vernacular: poems portraying crusaders (part I), poems featuring a female persona (part II), and poems by three identifiable poets portraying speakers of uncertain status (part III). He then further divides the poems in part I into those where crusaders encounter Jerusalem, the enemy, God, and woman respectively. In terms of organization, the three major parts of the book follow a similar format. Summaries conclude each section and place the textual analysis in a historical and ecclesiastical context.

The author succeeds in clearly establishing the differences between vernacular German and Latin crusade poetry: the German poetry does not exhort participation in the crusades (the emotional focus is different), it does not vilify or demonize the enemy, and it focuses on knightly prowess (115) and personal loss rather than on the status of Jerusalem. …

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