Jerold Frakes

title.none: Utz, Chaucer and the Discourse of Geman Philology (Jerold Frakes)

identifier.other: baj9928.0501.009 05.01.09

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Jerold Frakes, USC,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2005

identifier.citation: Utz, Richard. Chaucer and the Discourse of German Philology: A History of Reception and an Annotated Bibliography of Studies, 1793-1948. Series: Making the Middle Ages vol. 3. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2002. Pp. xxi, 446. $94.00 2503510868. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 05.01.09

Utz, Richard. Chaucer and the Discourse of German Philology: A History of Reception and an Annotated Bibliography of Studies, 1793-1948. Series: Making the Middle Ages vol. 3. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2002. Pp. xxi, 446. $94.00 2503510868. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Jerold Frakes

This meticulous and fascinating volume comprises in some sense an intellectual biography of the German-speaking academy via its published scholarship on Chaucer. It includes a monographical study of Chaucer scholarship in the German-speaking countries from 1793 (when the first comprehensive study of Chaucer was published in German) to 1948 (1-251), an annotated bibliography of this scholarship (253-396), an epilogue (397-401), and a general bibliography of works cited beyond the parameters of the book's titular subject (403-430). In the course of his study, the author cites liberally from the scholarship, always providing English translations for his German-less readers. While the author provides no compelling reason why the arbitrary endpoint of the publication of Ernst Robert Curtius' Europaische Literatur und Lateinisches Mittelalter is imposed on the material, it might be sought in the widespread notion that therewith a certain breadth and depth of traditional philology gasped its last; a notion that one need not search far to refute among many other examples of that mode of scholarship--especially but not just in Germany--even up to very recent years. In any case, the exclusion of scholarship published after 1948 spares the author (and reader) the avalanche of often ill-conceived and ill-executed philological doctoral theses that have resulted from the post-war expansion of the German university system (where article-length ideas are formulaically padded into book-length publications).

The author's monograph has several goals: through a focus on an "external" philology (16), i.e. not the native-language philology of a given nation-state, one gains quite a different view of the development of the conception of philology as a discipline and of the interaction of scholarship and ideology than if one were simply to study, for instance, the history of Romance philology in France. Such an investigation then provides a case study that offers a historicized view of certain philological practices, especially in light of the widespread academic scapegoating of philology since the 1960s (17). This study then also historicizes the other side of this question--the practice of the hard-core pro-philologists (17-8). In the process, several nationalist mythographies in medieval and specifically Chaucer studies are demystified (18). The growth and development of vernacular philology as an academic discipline in the culture of origin of modern philological practice--Germany--and its ties to both international philosophical and intellectual movements, especially nationalistically defined ones, are examined in depth. Finally, the broad sweep of German-language scholarship on Chaucer over a period of a century-and-a-half serves to indicate a certain provincialism among Anglophone Chaucerians who ignore scholarship in languages other than English (19-20). The author provides quite a detailed bio-bibliographical study of the scholars and the interconnection of the personal and the professional, academic employment and political affiliation.

In addition to the broader chronological survey, there is also an occasionally more sustained focus on individual scholars, such as Julius Zupitza, Bernhard ten Brink, Joh[an]n Koch, etc. Sometimes becoming somewhat more anecdotal than strictly analytical, this wide-ranging survey makes for a recurringly fascinating narrative.

The chronologically organized bibliography is amply annotated. It has two explicit goals (xvi-ii): to provide information about the historical reception of Chaucer among German-speaking scholars and also to call still useful studies to the attention of Chaucerians who conventionally neglect German-language scholarship. The author notes that some 30% of the titles included here are missing from the standard Chaucer bibliographies, where the listings of German scholarship are not just incomplete but also so very error-ridden that the publications are often simply not to be located (xv). Additionally, since those bibliographies generally lack annotations, it is not always clear what the content of any such publication might be.

The epilogue is particularly thought provoking on contemporary issues in medieval studies, theory, and old and new philology; that is, the condemnation by 'new' philologists of the stodgy straw man of the old philologist. He notes (401): "A return to late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century philological practices and their nationalist, sexist, and racialist motivations is not at all desirable. However, both these early scholars' more inclusive attention to linguistic, literary, and cultural detail and to the larger political relvance of their work, as well as some of their later colleagues' insistence on historical perspective and the inclusion of observations from the areas of etymology, grammar, and lexicography, might make for a healthy and exciting melange of the supposedly mutually exclusive cognitive enterprises of philology and enthusiasm." The volume is a welcome addition to both intellectual history and Chaucer scholarship.