Albrecht Classen

title.none: Bumke, Die vier Fassungen der Nibelungenklage (Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.9703.004 97.03.04

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1997

identifier.citation: Bumke, Joachim. Die vier Fassungen der 'Nibelungenklage'. Untersuchungen zur Überlieferungsgeschichte und Textkritik der höfischen Epik im 13. Jahrhundert. Quellen und Forschungen zur Literatur- und Kulturgeschichte, 8 (242). New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1996. Pp. xiv, 746. ISBN: ISBN 3-110-15076-X.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 97.03.04

Bumke, Joachim. Die vier Fassungen der 'Nibelungenklage'. Untersuchungen zur Überlieferungsgeschichte und Textkritik der höfischen Epik im 13. Jahrhundert. Quellen und Forschungen zur Literatur- und Kulturgeschichte, 8 (242). New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1996. Pp. xiv, 746. ISBN: ISBN 3-110-15076-X.

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

Until very recently there was good reason to complain about the lack of interest in or appreciation of the thirteenth- century heroic epic Diu Klage or The Lament. Predominantly German, English, and French scholars lambasted it for its excessive sentimentality or larmoyant attitude and decried it for its lack of heroic appeal. This negative evaluation has a long tradition extending to the early days of German philology. Diu Klage is a 4360-verse epic in which the consequences of the battle at King Attila's court are mourned and then the news of the horrendous bloodbath are disseminated at the relevant courts in Vienna, Pöchlarn, Passau, and Worms. The author, obviously highly critical of the Nibelungenlied, argued for a different approach to human conflicts and utilized the tragic outcome of the Burgundians' visit at Attila's court as an example of how to deal with human suffering, how to continue with life after such horrendous experience, but also as a warning of how wrong decisions and evil actions can lead to an Armageddon. Winder McConnell recently published a diplomatic edition of ms. B and accompanied it with an English translation (1995). Joachim Bumke, a Nestor of German medieval studies, here offers an extensive study of the manuscript tradition which provides meaningful insights in medieval text production and invites a thorough revision of the Lachmannian stemmatology. Whereas his examination of Diu Klage as a representative of medieval German heroic epic might not be of particular interest for many readers of this review journal, his general observations of manuscript receptions in the German Middle Ages definitely will be.

In the introductory chapter Bumke discusses problems of critical text editions using examples such as Hartmann von Aue's Iwein, Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, and Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan. Whereas older scholarship accepted, as one of its premises, the idea that medieval scribes were certainly concerned with creating the best possible text version and hence often combined passages from a wide range of sources ("Mischhandschriften"), Bumke believes that the individual manuscripts or manuscript groups must be seen as individual text versions which have their own value, hence are not to be considered as "Mischhandschriften" or eclectic collections derived from a variety of manuscripts containing more or less the same text. Bumke is not blind to the many cases which would contradict this claim, but he only insists that we do not necessarily have to consider any contaminated manuscript as faulty and derivative. There are cases, and Diu Klage is an exemplary one, where the "contaminated" manuscripts represent independent versions of the original text and have to be evaluated in this light. In other words, courtly epic literature is simply extent in multiple parallel versions which deserve individual attention, perhaps even as interpretations of the original (32). This observation is, of course, not new, as the extensive footnotes indicate. Bumke refers to the vast body of scholarship which has addressed these questions, most recently examined by the representatives of the "New Philology," but also by German scholarship (K. Stackmann, "Neue Philologie," Modernes Mittelalter, Frankfurt: Insel, 1994, 398-427). Nevertheless, his approach takes aim primarily at early nineteenth-century German philology, i.e., the school of Karl Lachmann, Wilhelm Braune, and, most recently, Werner Schroeder, although he is, to some extent, aware of new types of thinking developed by Guenther Schweikle, Hubert Heinen (Mutabilität, 1989), and Ulrich Müller (Salzburg Neidhart project) for the area of lyric poetry. From the point of view of English, American, or French medieval research, Bumke rallies against an interpretive front which has already broken down at least ten to fifteen years ago, but his open-minded and realistic discussion represents a fresh wind particularly for German philology as far as the discussion of epic and heroic texts is concerned. Moreover, with his sharp criticism of traditional editorial practice, combined with a thorough familiarity with international medieval philology (L. Patterson, Negotiating the Past, B. Cerquiglini, Eloge de la variante, P. Zumthor, Essai de poetique medievale), he brings, so to speak, his colleagues up to date. At the same time Bumke is as much at a loss as many other editors how to reproduce the widely differing manuscripts if the search for an original or authentic text might prove to be futile. Parallel printing of the various versions ("Fassungen") is a possibility only in very few cases (cost factor), unless such editions will be made available on CD-ROMs or other computer-based databases. An alternative might well be simply to rely on one manuscript as a literary documentation of how the text copied in it was read at a specific time by a specific audience. Bumke is content, however, simply to have problematized this issue, and finally, after 88 pages, turns to his actual topic, Diu Klage and its manuscript tradition.

The following section will be of interest primarily to Germanists, hence I will quickly summarize the major aspects of Bumke's investigation before I turn to the details of his arguments.

Bumke successfully argues that the four major versions of the Klage tradition cannot be approached with the help of traditional Lachmannian stemmatology, instead they represent individual versions considerably different from each other. In over 600 pages the author provides a detailed comparisons of textual passages, initials, themes, motifs, lexicon, names, etc., and, concluding that his thesis can be corroborated, i.e., suggests that the four ms. traditions represent individual strands of the text reception and deserve their individual status. Finally he demonstrates what an appropriate edition would have to look like by printing the first 250 verses of Diu Klage in synoptical form, using the versions represented by the mss. B, C, D, and J. The major differences appear in bold print. Interestingly, it appears that the old edition by Karl Bartsch from 1875, rpt. 1964, based on ms. B, still can satisfy modern philologists' need. Curiously, though, Bumke closely follows Bartsch in his modified, i.e. emended and "corrected" or standardized version. Only W. McConnell (1994) had printed his edition of the text as an exact diplomatic copy of ms. B (see my review in Bryn Mawr Medieval Revigw 95.1.6). If Bumke considers these various versions to be valid as individual representations of the text, why would he rejec| the mss. in their original form? If this historical approach -- certainly valid and probably highly appropriate for a modern reading of medieval texts -- is to be taken seriously, then why would he fall back to the older editorial practike? It seems to make perfect sense to accept a manuscript with all its mistakes and errors and recognize it as a historical document of how a specific text was transmitted and presented to an audience at a specific time.

Other aspects of Bumke's extensive monograph are his detailed description of all relevant manuscripts which contain either the complete text or only fragments. Bumke is the first one -- at least in a fleeting comment -- to note that the fifteenth-century Piaristenhandschrift (k) indirectly also contains a version of Diu Klage insofar as three characteristic stanzas are mixed in with the Nibelungenlied (257, fn. 1; see also my forthcoming translation, interpretation, and annotation of Diu Klage in which I discuss ms. k in greater detail).

For his evaluation of the individual versions he also makes an attempt to interpret individual characters and some themes, but they never amount to full-blown interpretations, instead are limited to comparisons of the mss. versions. In addition, Bumke discusses all possible literary sources of Diu Klage and also traces the links between this text and later epics, such as Biterolf. Although Diu Klage does not seem to be such an important poem in comparison with the Nibelungenlied or Wolfram's Parzival, Bumke's analysis of the manuscript tradition leads to general insights about text production in the Middle Ages. The key concept which he suggests is "Nibelungenwerkstatt" (590; "Nibelungen workshop"). It indeed illuminates the actual conditions in the scriptoria at the important aristocratic and clerical courts: "Es muss einen 'Grossmeister' gegeben haben - den eigentlichen Nibelungendichter - , der das 'Passauer Lied' verfasst hat und der eine Reihe von Mitarbeitern um sich hatte, mit denen ihn das gemeinsame Interesse am Text verband" (592). This is an intriguing concept for our understanding of how these extensive epic poems were produced. Whether this concept might help us with respect to some of the major courtly romances, needs to be explored in greater detail.

Bumke's monograph concludes with an almost complete bibliography and several indices. First there is an index with all author names mentioned in the secondary literature, then an index of all manuscripts referred to, followed by an index with all passages in Diu Klage, and an index with names and subject matters.

Although the author never attempts to interpret the poem as such -- his primary concern is limited to editorial questions -- this monograph provides a solid foundation for future studies on Diu Klage which no longer can be viewed as a minor, or mediocre poem not worth the modern philologists' attention. Bumke argues clearly and with full justification that this epic deals with emotions and reflections and opens an interior horizon completely ignored by the Nibelungenlied (106).