Gesammelte Schriften

By Classen, Albrecht | German Quarterly, October 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Gesammelte Schriften


Classen, Albrecht, German Quarterly


Medieval Literature and Culture Adolf, Helene. Cesammelte Schriften. Ed. Renate Heuer and Michael Dallapiazza. Trieste: Edizioni Parnaso, 2004. 448 pp. euro44.00 paperback.

Helene Adolf (1895-1998) was one of those seminal figures in German Studies whose work left a deep imprint, but at the same time seems to be forgotten within the postmodern discourse. The present collection of her ma j or articles and one monograph, Wortgeschichtliche Studien zum Leib/Seele-Problem. Mittelhochdeutsch lîp "Leib" und die Bezeichnungen fur corpus (orig. 1937), successfully counteracts this tendency and makes available once again many highly noteworthy studies on Middle High German, Old French, Scandinavian, and 19th-century German literature. Most of them originally appeared in highly reputable journals, such as Speculum, DVjS, JEGP, ZfSL, ASNS, Neophilologus, Comparative Literature, Germanic Review, and ZfdPh. Helene Adolf was forced to leave Vienna in 1939 and to emigrate to the USA because of her Jewish background. After several years of offering basic language classes, she was hired at the State University of Pennsylvania in 1943 where she taught until her retirement in 1963. As the editors correctly underscore, this researcher was often ahead of her time and offered far-reaching interpretations that were both "geistesgeschichtlich" and also pursued "Mentalitätsgeschichte." Most important, Adolf was superbly qualified todo comparative analysis, being fully versed in Old French and Middle High German literature and languages. She also reached out to Hebrew and Latin literature and offered innovative perspectives regarding the origin of the Grail myth. In one of her major investigations she proposed to read the Conte du Graal as a literary appeal to rescue Jerusalem and to support the crusaders, whereas Robert's Estoire was intended as a consolation over the loss of this holy city to the Moslems in 1187. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, on the other hand, served, according to Adolf, as a fictional Utopia transferring the Jerusalem myth into the world of King Arthur. …

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