contributor.author: Albrecht Classen

title.none: Rushing, ed. and trans., Ava's New Testament Narratives (Albrecht Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.0403.005 04.03.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

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

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Ava. Rushing, James A., Jr., ed. and trans. Ava's new Testament Narratives: When the Old Law passed Away. Series: Medieval German Texts in Bilingual Editions, vol. 2. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2003. Pp. 235. ISBN: $12.00 1-58044-037-1.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.03.05

Ava. Rushing, James A., Jr., ed. and trans. Ava's new Testament Narratives: When the Old Law passed Away. Series: Medieval German Texts in Bilingual Editions, vol. 2. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2003. Pp. 235. ISBN: $12.00 1-58044-037-1.

Reviewed by:

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

The fact is that the knowledge of Middle High German is declining at an alarming rate both among students and scholars, both in North America and even in German-speaking countries. At medieval conferences, medievalists specializing in medieval German literature belong to a small, often marginalized group, perhaps with the only significant exception at the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, MI. Most Germanists are happy if their students at least familiarize themselves with some of the fundamental Old and Middle High German texts, either in modern English or German translation. There is little hope that many German departments in the near future will continue or resume the teaching of medieval German in its various forms. Consequently, more and more scholars see the need to translate their texts which will make it possible for them to be integrated again into the canon of medieval literature, though this does not represent an ideal solution (see my collection of articles, Medieval German Voices in the 21st Century. The Paradigmatic Function of Medieval German Studies for German Studies (Amsterdam and Atlanta: Editions Rodopi, 2001)).

The first German woman writer was the twelfth-century anchorite Frau Ava (d. 1127). Her biblical narratives represent a major contribution to medieval women's literature, especially since she resorted to the vernacular. Other important eleventh- and twelfth-century women writers such as Hrotsvith of Gandersheim and Hildegard of Bingen wrote in Latin, which makes Ava's texts in early Middle High German (Bavarian-Austrian) most interesting. James A. Rushing, Jr. here presents a new edition with a facing page translation into English. The Middle High German text is based on Friedrich Maurer's edition in Die religioesen Dichtungen des 11. und 12. Jahrhunderts, (1964). The introduction provides a good overview of the basic information relevant for the understanding of Frau Ava's texts since Rushing briefly discusses her life, her poems, her intellectual background, her likely audience, the meaning of "inclusa" or 'anchorite,' her sources, the historical-literary context, the two manuscripts that have preserved her poems (V [Vorau] and G [Goerlitz]), the miniatures in the Goerlitz manuscript, twenty of which are reproduced here in black and white. He also offers a short interpretation.

Rushing tried to preserve the original in his English translation as much as possible, translating line by line, even if this sometimes means that the English text reads a little awkward, a prize that he deliberately accepted so as to make it possible for the reader to identify the original immediately. Occasionally I would have translated the text slightly differently. In John, for instance, 17, 11 "oder deheiner der wissagen" means "or any of the prophets," not "or none of the prophets." "Johannes der gewaere" would be better rendered as '"John the loyal," not "John the true." In 22, 9 "daz was der frowen ungemach" might be better translated as "This displeased the lady" than "It disturbed the lady." For 24, 5 "Die halzen" Rushing chose "The halt," but instead of this archaic word I would have preferred "The lame." In The Life of Jesus 5, 5 "diu magit wart vil wol geret" is translated as "The virgin was honored," but the adverb is missing: "was much honored." These are, however, only minor points and do not affect the overall very clear and concise translation.

This is not the first translation of Frau Ava's poems. Teta E. Moehs published an English translation in 1986, but for a Spanish publishing house. This made her book very inaccessible, and it is currently out of print. Walter Haug produced a German translation in 1991, so Rushing's new translation certainly fills a need and makes available the earliest German woman writer to an English speaking audience again. We can only hope that the series "Medieval German Texts in Bilingual Editions" will meet with a very positive response and continues publishing many more volumes of medieval German literature both for teaching and research purposes. The price for this book is amazingly low which makes it very affordable for students.