Albrecht Classen

title.none: Goetz, Moderne Mediaevistik. (Albrecht Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.0005.010 00.05.10

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona, aclassen@u.arizona. edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2000

identifier.citation: Goetz, Hans-Werner. Moderne Mediaevistik. Stand und Perspektiven der Mittelalterforschung. Darmstadt: Primus Verlag, 1999. Pp. 412. 98 DM. ISBN: 3-89678-122-7.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 00.05.10

Goetz, Hans-Werner. Moderne Mediaevistik. Stand und Perspektiven der Mittelalterforschung. Darmstadt: Primus Verlag, 1999. Pp. 412. 98 DM. ISBN: 3-89678-122-7.

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona
aclassen@u.arizona. edu

It should be obvious to all interested in Medieval Studies that this academic field represents a very energetic, vibrant, innovative, and critical-minded area of scholarly investigation. Major conferences both in North America and in Europe (for instance, Kalamazoo, MI, and Leeds, England) bear witness to the ever-growing interest in the Middle Ages and to the internationalization of Medieval Studies. One consequence has been that increasingly interdisciplinary studies are carried out, but this has also led to a curious dilemma that more and more medievalists communicate in English only and do not take note of scholarship produced in countries such as in the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Hungary, Germany, or Croatia, as long as it is not published in English. The present book by one of the leading German medieval historians, Hans-Werner Goetz, tries to build a bridge for both sides involved, both the international community of medievalists and those researching in German-speaking countries, by taking stock of the current trends of investigation, methodologies, theories, schools of thought, the historical development of the discipline, and the future developments as far as they can be projected on the basis of the most recent changes.

In the first part of his monograph, Goetz discusses the historical development of the academic discipline as an institution from the past to the present, and in the second he investigates current trends, methodologies, topics, and themes in Medieval Studies at large.

At first Goetz primarily explores the state of historical investigations of the Middle Ages in German-speaking countries, which by default leaves out many particular aspects relevant for medievalists in other disciplines, but also offers an in-depth analysis of specific issues. The discipline of history, however, has long begun to incorporate topics and questions which overlap with many other disciplines, such as literary studies, gender studies, art history, history of religion, etc. This is often reflected in Goetz' discussions, making them interesting for medievalists in many different fields. To some extent he has also reflected upon the relevant research literature from the neighboring disciplines, but he does not intend to provide a complete bibliography and to be all-inclusive.

As the title indicates, Goetz is concerned with the relevance of Medieval Studies today and in the future, hence at first he examines the extent to which the Middle Ages still play a significant role in public awareness, in school curricula, and at the universities in Germany. He also evaluates some of the current strategies to legitimize the study of that past epoch and traces the history of the discipline itself. For the general background, he outlines the emergence of the term "Middle Ages," the concepts of the various historical periods, the problematic term "dark ages" and the phenomenon of a renewed, if not enthusiastic revival of general interest in the Middle Ages. The following chapter deals with the historical development of the academic field of Medieval Studies primarily in Germany from the early nineteenth through the entire twentieth century. The chapter on German Medieval Studies during the time of National Socialism proves to be particularly interesting because Goetz demonstrates that whereas most German historians were not fully infected by the fascist ideology, many if not most were deeply nationalistic and conservative in their thinking.

When Goetz turns to the history of Medieval Studies after 1945, he increasingly has to deal with French, English, and US-American scholarship, but he mostly, but not entirely, disregards Russian, Italian, and Scandinavian research, to mention just a few areas of international scholarship. Nevertheless, the emphasis rests on the current state of Medieval Studies in German-speaking countries and the particular topical trends, such as "Alltagsgeschichte" (history of everyday life), gender history, and history of mentality. Although the author also refers to some contributions by non-German scholarship, the narrow focus on German publications is disappointing and ironically provides a good explanation for Goetz' own repeatedly raised complaint that German medieval scholarship has become provincial and is often disregarded by the international community. He does not consider, however, the deplorable decline of foreign language skills which makes it increasingly difficult for scholars in the French- and English-speaking world to understand their colleagues who write in German or, for that matter, in other languages.

Nevertheless, with regard to Goetz' survey, there is too much emphasis on German research, academic institutions, publications, and research trends, and too little regard for international developments. He mentions a number of important German conferences, but does not seem to know about the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, or the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, England. Finally, the next chapter deals with German academic and non-academic institutions dedicated to the study of the Middle Ages, and also highlights the current situation at German universities with regard to this field at large.

Whereas the first part offers interesting information mostly for students interested in studying the Middle Ages at a German university, or for scholars working in the history of academics, the second part turns the perspective toward more global issues relevant for Medieval Studies. Goetz provides a brief overview of the various disciplines supporting historical research of the Middle Ages, such as chronology, diplomatics (manuscripts), the research of royal itineraries, memorial literature, penitential literature, vitae, etc. Unfortunately, because of his focus on the history of the Middle Ages he ignores fictional literature which has increasingly yielded much valued information about mentality, gender relations, and social-historical conditions. It seems incomprehensible that Ernst Robert Curtius and his seminal study European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages are never mentioned, or that the important contributions to Medieval Studies both from a historical and literary perspective by more recent American and German scholars such as Joan M. Ferrante, C. Stephen Jaeger, and Hartmut Kugler are neglected.

Next, the author examines the role of political and constitutional history, including the history of medieval nationhood, the emergence of nationalism, and the role of power and government. Some of the chapters have been written by Goetz' own students; so, for instance, Steffen Patzold covers the theme of "conflict," the topic of "gift giving" is dealt with by Lorenz Sebastian Benkmann, and the theme of "saints' cults" by Jan-Marco Sawilla, whereas Goetz himself was responsible for the theme of "representation of the ruler, rituals, and public power demonstrations."

On the one hand this book intends to survey the major fields of investigation in Medieval Studies, on the other it also provides a valuable research report quite similar to the fine volume by James M. Powell, ed., Medieval Studies. An Introduction (2nd ed. 1992, here not mentioned). Consequently, the subsequent chapters pursue both aspects with regard to social and economic history, history of technology, trade and capital exchange, then with regard to medieval anthropology, including the history of mentality, psycho-history and emotions (by Hedwig Roeckelein), history of everyday life (by Anja Romeikat), women and gender studies (by Goetz), and finally with regard to historical culture studies. The latter refers to the tension between popular and elite culture, and between orality and literacy. It seems strange that Goetz considers women studies as a field completely dominated by female historians, as if the history of medieval women would be of no interest for male scholars. He laments this fact, but ignores the considerable number of relevant studies on this topic published by men (see, for example, John Carmi Parsons, ed., Medieval Queenship, 1993; William Chester Jordan, Women and Credit in Pre-Industrial and Developing Societies, 1993; Karl Rudolf Schnith, Frauen des Mittelalters in Lebensbildern, 1997).

In his conclusion Goetz observes that since the beginning of the twentieth century until today the emphasis in Medieval Studies has moved from the history of politics to the history of constitutionality, from there to the history of society and then to the history of the people, or, from the history of governments and rulers to the history of everyday life, the outsiders, marginal figures, symbols, rituals, and economic aspects. Goetz has successfully charted the entire field and outlined the major aspects profiling the discipline of Medieval Studies both past and present from a German perspective. No small wonder that the bibliography, as rich as it might appear, contains many lacunae and desiderata, but who would want to criticize the author for these practically inevitable shortcomings in light of the enormous sweep of his overview and critical discussion.

It remains somewhat unclear whom Goetz tries to address. The book at first arose out of a series of lectures given at German universities, hence the strong emphasis on German scholarship and the history of German academic institutions dedicated to the study of the Middle Ages in its many aspects. In the course of his investigations Goetz increasingly turned to more fundamental issues, topics, theories, and methodologies relevant to Medieval Studies. From this resulted the second part of his book which appeals to medieval scholarship at large, offering a good survey of the past and present trends. Goetz has written as much a book about the Middle Ages as about the historical scholarship focused on that period.

An index of the names of all scholars mentioned, an index of historical and literary names, and a subject index conclude this volume. The secondary literature is listed in the footnotes.