Albrecht Classen

title.none: Mueller, ed., Auffuehrung und Schrift

identifier.other: baj9928.9611.003 96.11.03

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona, aclassen@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1996

identifier.citation: Mueller, Jan-Dirk. Auffuehrung und Schrift in Mittelalter und Frueher Neuzeit Germanistische Symposien, Berichtsbaende, XVII. Stuttgart-Weimar: Verlag J. B. Metzler, 1996. Pp. xviii + 675, 30 illustrations. $. ISBN: ISBN 3-476-01423-1.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 96.11.03

Mueller, Jan-Dirk. Auffuehrung und Schrift in Mittelalter und Frueher Neuzeit Germanistische Symposien, Berichtsbaende, XVII. Stuttgart-Weimar: Verlag J. B. Metzler, 1996. Pp. xviii + 675, 30 illustrations. $. ISBN: ISBN 3-476-01423-1.

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

Under the aegis of the Deutsche Forschungsgemein- schaft, Jan-Dirk Mueller organized, together with Christoph Cormeau, Horst Wenzel, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, and Erich Kleinschmidt an international conference on medieval and early-modern literature. This conference, which took place in Kloster Seeon in Upper Bavaria from Sept. 26-30, 1994, had as its theme the two interrelated concepts of "performance" and "written document." The conference proceedings have now appeared in print and promise to be a landmark in medieval studies. The review will first take a cursory look at this volume, and then will examine individual articles in depth, without discussing every title to the same extent, particularly if they contain similar concepts and observations.

The basic notion pursued by the conference organizers and the presenters is that medieval and early-modern literature has to be viewed not simply as a body of documents reflecting a written culture, but rather as literature of a semi-oral culture. The key words which encapsulate this new understanding are "performance" and "orality" which imply that a medieval poem, for instance, can no longer simply be discussed as a textual phenomenon. Rather, this poem was certainly performed in a specific setting at a court, for example, and this performance was accompanied by music, gestures, mimicry, etc.

Consequently, the traditional understanding of "text" among medievalists is in the process of a paradigmatic revision, following the suggestions by Paul Zumthor, Bernard Cerquiglini, and others that text production and text reception follow the principles of "mouvance" and "variance." Secondly, all cultural products are considered as linguistic signals and need to be read accordingly. This thesis requires the dissolution of the worn-out genre differentiations and places literary texts right next to maps, chronicles, rituals, and the like. Thirdly, all cultural documents are subject to the functions of performance, demonstration, representation, and theatricality. Fourthly, the actual communication process between artist and audience often has left no concrete traces in written or material documents, such as the dance, the song, the tournament, and the festival, but there might be clues hidden within the texts about the real life situation of the performance.

To reflect these aspects in the conference, four sections were established with the following themes: 1. performance of poetry, manuscript production, and orality; 2. participation, mimesis, and representation; 3. ritual and theatricality, enactment of social constructions; 4. the embodiment of texts and texts in bodies.

There is a lot of theory built into these concepts, although the principal ideas are easy to accept. Indeed, courtly love poetry such as troubadour poetry was not simply written down for private reading at the time of its inception, instead it was first performed in public and copied on parchment sometimes not until hundreds of years later. But we have very little evidence of notations and of the actual presentation of this poetry at courts. Of course, literature must be understood in the light of literary communication and social interaction (P. Strohschneider, 9), but there are great obstacles to overcome the historical distance.

The authors of the first section clearly outline the new impetus, but they do not fully succeed in identifying what the actual situation was like when a medieval court poet performed his or her songs. Strohschneider's thesis that the court became a sort of "theater" (12) is well taken, and one could also call the discussion of courtly love a form of game (see my articles in Mediaevistik 2 [1989] and in Studi Medievali XXXVI [1995]). The textual references to the performance situation are more or less evident, as there must have been listeners as well as performers (11). Strohschneider's close reading of several Middle High German poems indicates that we can actually observe important reflections by the poets about their own songs. Beyond that, however, no real clues are detectable, and the author loses his thread of argument to some extent in speculations.

Hedwig Meier and Gerhard Lauer trace the scant indications of the actual performance of the Carmina Burana and argue, without being fully able to convince their readers that the manuscript still reverberates with echoes of the playful enactment and presentation of these clerical and erotic songs.

Helmut Tervooren argues that courtly love poetry is specifically directed towards an audience, plays with this audience and establishes an interaction. Tervooren relies on a different text basis than Strohschneider, and also reaches further out than him in a very sensitive reading of Minnesang poems, but arrives at very similar conclusions. It is certainly true and worth considering that courtly love poetry is based on ambiguity and polysemy, and always reaches out towards the audience, inviting its participation in the discussion about the specific points outlined by the singer. Nevertheless, we cannot know what the actual historical situation was like, whereas the reflective mode of many courtly love poets is quite obvious, as Thomas Bein outlines in his contribution. In the light of his and the previous articles we begin to realize that these courtly songs did not simply serve to adulate a lady, but also, if not primarily, provided a forum for the discussion of fictionality and lyric performance. Martin Huber then takes the next step in analyzing the manuscript traditions for signs of how the songs were to be presented musically. And indeed, a closer look reveals that the scribes often left a considerable number of clues for us to gain at least a very general idea of who was singing what part in what voice, as in the case of the songs by the Monk of Salzburg (late 14th century). Gerhard Hahn examines the close interaction of orality and literacy in the early Protestant church song, best expressed in the genre of the "Gesangbuch" or hymn-book, but he does not tell us anything really new because the functions of hymns always consisted in public singings during church service. Finally, to conclude this section, Joachim Bumke discusses the current debate of the proper editorial praxis for medieval manuscripts. He argues that the Lachmannian school basically has to be discarded and that we need to consider each manuscript on its own terms as an individual version because of the all-pervasive mutability and variance in the text production. This might be a more realistic approach to medieval literature, but appears to be, at least under current conditions, an impossible concept because we cannot take every manuscript into account when we study, for instance, the Roman de la Rose. Despite many significant changes from one manuscript to the other, they still were copies, and we do not need to attribute too much importance to any little variation which might have occurred because of, let's say, scribal errors. On the other hand, in many cases the variances from one manuscript to the other were indeed significant enough to justify an individual reading of each without resorting to emendations, conjectures, and the principle of establishing a base manuscript to the disadvantage of all others.

The second section takes a look at the actual situation at the courts during the Middle Ages and what the literary texts might tell us about them. Michael Curschmann utilizes the family chronicle of the counts of Guines and Ardres, written by Lambert of Ardres around 1200 for this purpose. Lambert applied the same concept as, one hundred fifty years later, Boccaccio did in his Decameron, relying on a narrator and an audience who exchange accounts of specific events in the family history. Haiko Wandhoff discusses Hartmann von Aue's Erec as a literary forum in which the social problem of communication is discussed. The analysis takes us a long way into the text, and a number of new observations are worth considering, such as the topical image of a sleeping Erec who is observed by his lady (is this a Pieta figure?). But otherwise Wandhoff repeats and rephrases the findings of other scholars without gaining new ground.

Walter Haug, referring to the Irish Deaths of Lugaid and Derbforgaill and the biography of Jean Le Meingre, called Boucicaut, examines the role of the body in its symbolic function within courtly performance and written texts. In his arguments he closely follows the most recent theoretical approaches to medieval studies, without realizing, however, that neither those theories about the body nor his subsequent application really illuminate medieval culture (see, for a negative example, Framing Medieval Bodies, S. Kay and M. Rubin, edd. 1994), but instead satisfy a modish desire to modify medieval studies with the help of poststructural discourse. Elke Brueggen somewhat follows Haug's model, but stays much closer to her textual object, Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival where she detects many significant narrative elements with which the courtly culture is presented to the reader or listener. Ingrid Bennewitz, finally, assembles references in Middle High German literature to women and their bodily perception. She calls it a "Theater of Genders," which might indeed be a fitting label for the many topical images of female body parts (eyes, lips, breasts) and female behavior (shameful bowing of the head, etc.).

The only really refreshing article in this section is Gerd Althoff's discussion of historical sources in which kings cry in a ritual manner. The crying king is not simply a sentimental person, but an important figure at court for the public enactment of emotions. Surprisingly, Althoff does not take the hitherto widely neglected "heroic" poem Diu Klage (ca.1220) into account, but his findings, based on his historical perceptions, would be thoroughly confirmed by this literary text.

Gert Melville analyzes the self-presentation and enactment in courtly manners by Jacques de Lalaing in his Pas d'armes de la Fontaine des Pleurs. He died by a canon ball during a siege of the fortress Poeke in Flanders in 1453 and was thus, through his death, a signal for the closure of the Middle Ages. Helga Meise pursues the same theme with her discussion of Marcus zum Lamm's (1544-1606) collection of illustrated broadsheets, portraits, drawings and watercolors, his Thesaurus picturarum, a representation of courtly life at a time of its greatest demise and also revival.

One of the highlights of this volume is Paul Zumthor's excellent lecture on the significance of medieval maps as conglomerations of texts and images, and thus as mediators between orality and literacy. A mappa mundi was more than a modern map; it was a multi-layered, highly decoded geographical, philosophical, religious, literary, and historical text; it was an art work and a romance, a visual interpretation of the Bible and the chronicle as a genre. In a way the mappa was, as Zumthor argues, very much related to the medieval drama, inviting its readers and viewers to enter its own discourse and participate in its performance function.

The third section focuses on the theatricality of late- medieval society. This theatricality can be found both in Japanese medieval drama of the Heian period, especially in the works of Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443), as Thomas Hare illuminates, and in fifteenth-century English plays, as Seth Lerer argues, in a somewhat convoluted and top-heavy paper. Gerhard Wolf pursues the same line of argument, but refers to the late-15th century Donaueschinger Passionsspiel. In all three cases the separation between reality and play does not seem to have been very clear, as reality became a staged play, and the play assumed very realistic features of city life. The same fusion of the two spheres took place in late-medieval panel paintings. Lieselotte E. Saurma-Jeltsch illustrates this phenomenon with a study of the development of painting from the High to the Late Middle Ages, eventually focusing on the works by Jan van Eyck and his stunning technique of verism.

Sebastian Klotz introduces the topic of Quattrocento dance and its relevance for social life during that period, whereas Christian Kiening returns, in a way, to Gerd Althoff's study, when he examines the ritual mourning of Isabella of Bourbon (d. 1465) and Mary of Burgundy (d. 1482). Unfortunately, he neglected to consult the powerful debate poem Der Ackermann by Johann von Tepl (ca. 1401) in which very similar aspects are discussed in great detail, but in a dramatic discussion between Everyman and Death. Finally, Sylvia Hyot examines reader responses to a passage in the Roman de la Rose where the relationship between the genders forms the focus of the discussion between a husband and his wife (2nd ed. Lecoy, v. 16293-676). By means of a close analysis of marginal notes in the hundreds of extant manuscripts she is able to retrieve actual historical readers' interpretation of this passage and their value judgments.

The last section deals with texts and their embodiment as texts in the early modern period. Hence it suffices for our purposes to summarize the major aspects. Andreas Kablitz studies Machiavelli's effort to create a medium for the prince to stage himself. Joseph Vogel looks at political theories about the modern state in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Wolfgang Harms presents a survey of pictograms, that is, letters as bodies; Wolfgang Schaeffner explores the representation of the country of the Netherlands as a body in sixteenth-century topography; Barbara Korte turns to nonverbal semiotic systems in eighteenth-century English novels, and Hilmar Kallweit discusses Jakob Engel's theory of expressivity in all areas of human sciences and literature, formulated in his Ideen zu einer Mimik from 1785/1786.

It would be difficult to find a common denominator for these many papers, unless we take the notion that all literature is part of a semiotic system which expresses itself in ritual, public performance, and bodily roles. Many articles do not really break new ground, but often they subtly shift the ground and open perspectives which allow for significantly innovative interpretive angles. Many articles, however, simply open those proverbial doors which have been open for a long time. One of them is that courtly poetry and romances were intended for public performance and presented at the courts. Anybody well informed about Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival would have known that the poet incorporates a multitude of personal references and thus illustrates his subjective role as performer.

We need to keep in mind, however, that these are conference proceedings, and the purpose of a conference is to try out new ideas, to test their validity, and to exchange opinions. In this sense, this volume makes valuable contributions to the study of medieval literature and history.