Morgan Powell

title.none: Schultz, ed., Sovereignty and Salvation in the Vernacular 1050-1150 (Powell)

identifier.other: baj9928.0102.014 01.02.14

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Morgan Powell , nstitute f|r Europdische Geschichte,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2001

identifier.citation: Schultz, James, ed. Sovereignty and Salvation in the Vernacular, 1050-1150: Das Ezzolied, Das Annolied, Die Kaiserchronik, vv. 247-667, Das Lob Salomons, Historia Judith. Medieval German Text in Bilingual Editions, 1. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000. Pp. xii, 164. $10.00. ISBN: 1-580-44062-2.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 01.02.14

Schultz, James, ed. Sovereignty and Salvation in the Vernacular, 1050-1150: Das Ezzolied, Das Annolied, Die Kaiserchronik, vv. 247-667, Das Lob Salomons, Historia Judith. Medieval German Text in Bilingual Editions, 1. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000. Pp. xii, 164. $10.00. ISBN: 1-580-44062-2.

Reviewed by:

Morgan Powell
nstitute f|r Europdische Geschichte

The continuous tradition of a written literature in the German language began far earlier --around 1050-- than in the other major European vernaculars, and is represented by a number of extraordinary texts, each all but unique in their own as well as in an international context. But these same texts are the object of equally extraordinary scholarly neglect once one looks beyond a handful of experts who have made them their isolated concern. The current sustained international and interdisciplinary mode of Medieval Studies has done little to change this. All the more welcome an arrival then, is the first volume of a series within the TEAMS (Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages) project, Sovereignty and Salvation in the Vernacular, 1050-1150, Medieval German Texts in Bilingual Editions, I. Five representative works of this earliest period of Middle High German literature are printed here with facing-page English translations, an introduction, basic bibliography and notes.

The series "is designed for classroom use. . .as well as for the more advanced scholar in fields adjacent to that of German literature". The selection is intended make texts available that have not yet found wide attention in the discussion of European vernacular literature, and that promise "to contribute new and special perspectives to that discussion". ( ix) Consistent with the goals of the TEAMS project, the volumes are to be offered at a low-end price, which places limits on these ambitions in order best to serve classroom application.

With a wealth of material from which to choose, James Schultz has succeeded in providing both a representative collection, and one that has its own unity in literary historical context. The compilation of seemingly unrelated and even thematically incompatible texts into one codex is a striking feature of the period that immediately succeeds the genesis of the texts presented here, and is in several cases solely responsible for their transmission to us. Four of the five texts selected were included in a compilation of the late twelfth century known today as the Vorau Codex (Vorau [Steiermark] Cod. 276), and the fifth, as the editor emphasizes, is also represented there in excerpted form. The five works--or, more properly, six, are as follows: Both the Strasbourg and Vorau versions of Ezzo's "Song about the Miracles of Christ"; the Song of Anno, a complex work devoted to glorifying the life of Bishop Anno of Cologne; an excerpt from the lengthy "Chronicle of the Emperors"; the poem "In Praise of Solomon"; and the "Historia Judith", itself made up of two distinct poems, the "Three Youths in the Furnace" and the "Earlier Judith".

This choice of texts is particularly well suited for developing teaching strategies to introduce students to the nature, function and environment of the medieval literary text. The consideration of the Vorau compilation, its make-up, potential unity and function is one of these. Relationships between the texts provide a case-book of others. While it may seem odd to include two versions of one work in such a limited introductory collection, the inclusion of both versions of Ezzo's song invites students to consider the idea of each redaction of a work as an authentic text rather than as more or less 'corrupt' versions of an original. The two versions can easily be seen to reflect two different functions, the Strasbourg version being a hymn sung to music, and the Vorau version a rhymed sermon for oral delivery. The "Song of Anno", a text with evidently very limited transmission and appeal even in its own time, contrasts with the "Chronicle of Emperors" as one of the most widely transmitted texts of the period--but, as the excerpt from the "Chronicle" included here shows, part of the "Song of Anno" was 'popularized' through borrowing from it in the "Chronicle". A third variation of the adaptation of texts to new purposes is evidenced in the two poems that have been fused into one to form the "Historia Judith", and this adaptation reflects in turn on the pairing of the "Historia" with "In Praise of Solomon" in the Vorau compilation: these two poems become a contrasting pair treating of the despot (Nebuchadnezzar) versus the enlightened ruler (Solomon).

The selection of texts in any anthology is easily challenged and always a compromise. I would like to have seen included at least the prologue to the "Chronicle of Emperors", which provides insight into contemporary reflection on the nature of truth and fiction. One wonders whether the inclusion of the entire first 667 lines of this text, rather than of only lines 247-667 would have overly compromised considerations of brevity and cost. But placing such details aside, Schlutz's choices have the advantage of mutually reinforcing each other from several different perspectives that do much to recommend the collection to teachers of both German literature and Medieval Studies generally.

In his introduction, Schultz puts across in brief and accessible terms the sparse essential facts on the historical background of these texts, and makes the case straightforwardly for their place in the general curriculum of Medieval Studies. The student or uninitiated reader will find general orientation here on the production and transmission of the texts, on their place as representatives of a new vernacular textual culture within the world of Latin learning, and on their cultural context as reflected in the dominant themes of sovereignty and salvation. The specialist's interests will be disappointed by a lack of more probing analysis, as will also be the case when perusing the minimal notes to the texts. These are limited (with the exception of the notes to the "Song of Anno") largely to translation of the Latin phrases retained within the English translations and indications of biblical citations or allusions. More might have been done here to attune student readers to the evidence in the texts of the same issues raised in the introduction, to points resistant of interpretation and to questions provoking further thought. The scholar is, not inappropriately, directed to the extensive notes provided in other German language editions.

Such deficiencies as are to be found in Sovereignty and Salvation reside precisely in the difficult balancing act between the dual objectives of the series to serve both students and scholars. Priority has been given, and to my thinking appropriately, to the student and to classroom considerations in most aspects. The translations form the sole exception to this observation, and they are also the only aspect that I find wanting. This is not at all to say that Schultz's translations are not accurate representations of the content of the Middle High German texts. The shortcoming lies sooner in the fact that they do only that. The series as a whole promises "a translation in straightforward English prose which reproduces meaning as faithfully as possible, compatible with modern idiomatic usage." Schultz's translations consistently reflect this objective, with isolated exceptions such as the use of the phrase "we must needs remember" in translating Ezzo's "Song". (29, 37). Such a 'slip' reflects the nearly irresistible tendency to attempt at least some approximation of the 'feel' of the texts in their translation, one that Schultz acknowledges in his introduction when he indicates his attempt to preserve, where possible, the pervasive parataxis of the texts, whose "power comes from the static arrangement of compact blocks, each one laden with meaning". (13) Despite this concession to the aesthetic of the texts, Schultz's translations remain dry and uninspiring reading, more useful as a guide to the semi-proficient reader of Middle High German than to the less advanced students or non-readers of German the volume otherwise effectively addresses. It is hard to imagine exposing students with no other acquaintance or access to these texts to these translations without possibly discouraging whatever interest they initially brought to the task. I appreciate the attempt to offer no-nonsense renderings of meaning, but finally, as teachers of literature, and of a literature that lives from verse and oral delivery, we cannot settle for less than a translation that communicates something of the form as well as the content, that delivers at least partially an aesthetic experience of text. I believe this could have been generally accomplished without sacrificing accuracy, and at times it would have resulted in an English text that corresponds more closely, line-for-line, to the original. As it is, the translation often seems to go out of its way--that of offering a rendering as close as possible to the original--to force poetic syntax into prosaic standard English. There will be differences of opinion here, but I believe that the role of the volume, and of the series, as an introduction to medieval German texts would be better served by a different approach, and that this need not sacrifice value to the scholarly reader.

But such considerations are only offered by way of enthusiastic support for the project as a whole, and for this volume in particular. The neglect of these early texts has proceeded from several circumstances; the lack of such an English translation for scholarly use is only one, and not the greatest of these. Medievalists working in other vernaculars make contact with German literature not as a predecessor to other traditions, but as an adapter or continuator of the great flowering of Old French literature beginning in the mid-twelfth century. In turn, it was this role as adapter that displaced, all but permanently, the tradition represented in such texts as are included in Sovereignty and Salvation; that is, contemporaries, too, forgot the predecessors in favor of texts within the new inter-vernacular mainstream. But recent trends in Medieval Studies have tended away from a study of the 'classics' for their own sake, and a focus on several phenomenological questions--the nature and role of the vernaculars, the relationship between Latin and vernacular, as between the literate, monastic culture and the largely illiterate courts--as well as a renewed interest in religiously inspired texts among medievalists generally, make this volume, and the series which it inaugurates, very timely and valuable additions that one can only hope will find the attention they deserve.