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13.10.16, Schmitz, Der Schluss des Parzival Wolframs von Eschenbach

13.10.16, Schmitz, Der Schluss des Parzival Wolframs von Eschenbach

Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival is one of the most significant medieval German literary works, extant in over eighty manuscripts of which fifteen include complete texts, numbers that attest to its popularity even in the Middle ages. It remains, along with the works of Hartmann von Aue and Gottfried von Straßburg and the Nibelungenlied, at the heart of the study of medieval German literature. Indeed it has been, since the beginnings of this discipline, a place justified both by its clear importance within literary spheres in medieval Germany itself, as well as by its influence on modern German literature and culture, and, most of all, by its content. The first Grail Romance in German, Wolfram's text, an adaptation of Chrétien de Troyes's incomplete Perceval le Galois, draws on a broad intellectual background ranging from astronomical and medical theory to most of the important vernacular literary works from medieval Germany that preceded it, and addresses themes as diverse as forms of lay religiosity, contemporary conceptualisations of Islam, love, marriage, and relations between the sexes, and the methods and morality of knighthood and religious warfare in the context of an age of crusading. Written in a dense and often deliberately difficult style, and chock-full of complex allusions and inter- and intratextual references, if any vernacular literary work of the Middle Ages needs a good commentary, this is it.

This need has long been recognised; the first commentaries on the whole work were produced already in the nineteenth century, and the two old commentaries of Karl Bartsch (thoroughly updated by Marta Marti) and Ernst Martin are still useful particularly for their assistance with linguistic issues. [1] Given the sheer volume of scholarship since they were produced, they are also clearly now insufficient. In 1994, Eberhard Nellmann published a very handy but also necessarily very brief commentary, intended only as a first resource that self-confessedly provided a very superficial overview of many subjects as a part of his edition of this work (really a reprint of the sixth edition of Lachmann's text). [2] These are the only commentaries to the whole text. With a text of this complexity and size, the only way of giving the reader a thorough work of reference that can cover issues of language, style, intertextual and intratextual references, relationship to various sources, manuscript variations, and the main interpretative issues in a manner that can provide a reliable guide for the reader--and this is, quite rightly, how Schmitz conceives of her work--is to provide commentaries on sections of the text. Parzival was divided (somewhat artificially) by Lachmann into sixteen books, and after some early commentaries on Book VII by Gisela Zimmermann, [3] and parts of Book III by Eichholz and Yeandle, [4] there was a spate of commentaries in the 1990s (many written by Nellmann's students) that, together with Eichholz, Yeandle, and Zimmermann, provide us with coverage of the first three books, Book V, part of Book VI, and Book VII. [5] These have all proved extremely useful works, and it is regrettable that there has been a hiatus in the past decade. This may have something to do with the fact that commentaries are, for reasons that seem to have more to do with fickle fashions than anything else, apparently not seen as terribly exciting, and more importantly, marketable works that can help young academics get jobs. All these commentaries were written as doctoral dissertations, and I recall being warned that writing a commentary myself for my dissertation would be "academic suicide": possibly true, given the later careers of the commentators listed here, but a very sad reflection on the current discipline of "Literaturwissenschaft" and its seemingly increasing distance from the fundamentals of philological scholarship. Thus this new commentary, on the end of Parzival, is greatly to be welcomed (as is the fact that, according to the author, three more are currently under way).

Unlike most of her predecessors, Schmitz presents a brief discussion of the theory of writing commentaries, though she must conclude that unfortunately this is one aspect of the discipline that has (unlike, for example, that of editing) received remarkably little in terms of theoretical reflection, at least with regard to medieval vernacular literatures; she does, however, provide a useful bibliography of what little theorizing has been done so far. Schmitz sees her role, rightly, as providing a guide to the reader, both in terms of what we might call the empirical evidence (all aspects of language; the historical background and its relationship to the text; sources and intertextual references; intratextual references), and to the that have been provided by the scholarship; although she does herself occasionally have her own views to offer, these are clearly so indicated, and are not the main focus of this work. Also unlike her predecessors, Schmiz provides, in addition to her commentary on the text, a discussion of the manuscript illustrations of the passage that is the subject of this book in a separate chapter (Chapter III), as well as occasional brief references to the illustrations in her commentaries on individual passages. Her work is rounded off with reproductions of a few of these illustrations, a substantial bibliography, and a brief index (regrettably not including an index of modern scholars cited).

The section of text that Schmitz has chosen is the sixteenth and last of Lachmann's books, which is, as the end, one of the most important sections, and also extremely dense in its allusions, not least because it contains the first references in German to the legends of the Swan Knight and Prester John. The main chapter (Chapter II) of her commentary divides up Book XVI into nine sections. We begin with the portrayal of Anfortas's suffering (Chapter II.1). Shortly after having been informed that he has been chosen for the Grail Kingship, Parzival journeys to the Grail Castle and asks a question that heals his suffering uncle, the current Grail King--a question that he should have asked on his first visit, though the form of the question is apparently different from what, according to his other uncle, it should have been (Chapter II.2). Parzival also encounters for a second time this other uncle Trevrizent (Chapter II.3), who had earlier told Parzival that he should desist from searching for the Grail and is now astounded by his nephew's success and appears to retract (some of) what he had earlier said. Parzival is then reunited with his wife, Condwiramurs (Chapter II.4), whom he has not seen for over four years while he has been trying to make his way back to the Grail. He encounters the dead body of his cousin Sigune (Chapter II.5), whom he had met three times before at important stages in his life. He returns to the Grail Castle again, and there his half- brother Feirefiz--a heathen with skin that is both black and white- -converts, and marries the Grail Princess (Chapter II.6), and we are told that they return to Feirefiz's lands in the east, where they have a son, Prester John (Chapter II.7), who then converts all of the east to Christianity. Finally, we are given a brief narrative about one of Parzival's sons, Loherangrin the Swan-Knight (Chapter II.8; he is perhaps better known to a modern audience through Wagner's opera Lohengrin); and the text closes with an authorial epilogue that is in some respects conventional, but in other respects possibly quite the opposite of conventional (Chapter II.9).

It will be clear from this brief summary that this portion of the text is rich in content and complexity, and provides ample scope for the diligence of a commentator; and Schmitz has exercised this diligence and provided an excellent result. Her coverage of the empirical aspects is thorough enough to provide the information one needs to understand the text without getting overly bogged down in irrelevant details; she peppers her commentary densely with cross- references to other passages in the text, passages commented on in her own work, and other commentaries, all of which is extremely useful in helping the reader find her way around this difficult hugely self-reflexive work; and her summaries of the scholarly debates are broad while also remaining succinct and tempered with sound judgment regarding the often rather over-enthusiastic and perhaps unsophisticated readings of some passages that one finds in the older (and sometimes even more recent) scholarship. In the case of a text like this, it will rarely be possible to pin down a crux to a single interpretation, and Schmitz is even-handed in her reporting of the scholarship; her own views are generally sound, though obviously there will be many things that some will not agree with. In particular, I found that her coverage of the thorny issues of Trevrizent's "retraction," Prester John, and the brief narrative about the Swan Knight, provides excellent and judicious summaries of the issues and the range of views in the scholarship. Furthermore, the epilogue--the last thirty lines of the text--has, as Schmitz rightly notes, received relatively little attention in terms of its form and function as epilogue, and the seventeen pages she devotes to these lines are thus a welcome and useful interpretation of Wolfram's poetics and the self-representation of the narrator of this text in its closing section.

For a commentary of this sort, while being absolutely comprehensive in the coverage of the scholarship would probably be impossible-- Parzival-scholarship has notoriously expanded to proportions that were already scarcely manageable two generations ago--it is still important that at least all the really significant works, particularly those that are recent, and most of the earlier scholarship, do get cited at the least, even if not discussed in any detail. Every reviewer will doubtless have her or his list of gaps; it seems to me that there are hardly any that are serious. In his review, Petrus Tax lists, along with a few citation errors, some scholarship that is missing, [6] of which I repeat here only the most significant work, Joachim Bumke's monograph of 2001. [7] The only other glaring omission I noted (not cited by Tax) was in Schmitz's discussion of the term âventiure, where she does not cite Dennis Green's fundamental paper on the significance of this word in this text. [8] Her discussion of the Angevin heritage of the protagonist and its significance might have been enriched with reference to Martin Jones's paper on Richard the Lionheart in medieval German literature; [9] and while it is embarrassing to promote my own work, given that a section of Schmitz's book discusses Condwiramurs, the hero's wife, and her significance (Condwiramurs makes her second and last appearance in this part of the text), she may have found it worth citing my paper, the only work of scholarship so far published devoted to this figure, in which, inter alia, I present some arguments against the consensus view repeated by Schmitz that Condwiramurs was simply 'nachträglich legitimiert' as Grail Queen (132). [10] Schmitz's discussion of the Loherangrin episode and the possibly female audience of Parzival might also have been fruitfully enriched by some engagement with Annette Volfing's article on the potentially didactic functions of this part of the text. [11]

Some gaps of this sort are inevitable, and not a major fault; equally inevitable is that one or two works cited by author and date in the notes will not find their way into the bibliography (indeed, I have myself been guilty of this). But while one can excuse the author and publisher for missing one or two references, this book lacks considerably more! Already in the third footnote at p. 9, the reference to Stackmann 1975 finds no corresponding entry in the bibliography; the author presumably means Karl Stackmann's contribution to the volume ">Probleme der Kommentierung, cited and listed in the bibliography as Frühwald/Kraft/Müller- Seidel 1975 (this volume was not accessible to me and I was thus unable to verify the reference). Also missing: Brunner 1987 cited at n. 101 on p. 25; [12] Lähnemann and Rupp 2001 at n. 92 on p. 43 and n. 15 on p. 107; [13] Grundmann 1942 on p. 60; [14] Blaicher 1966 at n. 176 on p. 79; [15] Ohly 1968 at n. 211 on p. 82; [16] Singer 1898 and Misch 1927 at nn. 93 and 98 on p. 98; [17] Sauer 1981 and Groos 1975 at n. 133 on p. 102; [18] von Ertzdorff 1991 at n. 29 on p. 109 (I have been unable to identify this reference); Gärtner 1969 and le Goff 1989 at nn. 70 and 76 on p. 114; [19] Letts 1947 on p. 175 at n. 51; [20] Kolb 1988 at n. 62 on p. 176; [21] Gosman 1983, Gosman 1989, Lecouteux 1983, and Lecouteux 1984 at n. 93 on p. 180;[22]; Stolz 2008 at n. 18 on p. 224 and passim. [23] In addition, apart from some instances where the reader will be confused as to whether the reference is to Walter or Wolfgang Mohr, or Walter Johannes or Werner Schröder, Delabar 1994 at no. 43 on p. 38 must be a reference to Walter Delabar's 1990 monograph (listed in the bibliography) and not his 1994 article (not listed in the bibliography), since the reference is to p. 202, and the article starts on p. 321; Hagen 1992 at n. 163 on p. 51 would appear to be properly a reference to Haage 1992; the reference to Haug 1985, p. 168, at n. 68 on p. 129, is, I assume, to the first edition of Walter Haug's monograph Literaturtheorie im deutschen Mittelalter, of which the second edition of 1992 is listed in the bibliography, but not the original 1985 edition, in which I find nothing of relevance at p. 168; Kohrt 1997 at n. 110 on p. 142 must be Kordt 1997; Saurma-Jeltsch 1987 at nn. 64 and 65 on p. 232 should be Stamm-Saurma 1987 (the confusion is understandable, as they are the same person); Stolz 2002 at n. 10 on p. 223 should be Stolz 2002c. Perhaps it is also worth noting that the scholar cited as Gisela Bonath is actually Gesa Bonath. Although the book is otherwise handsomely produced, it is a pity that an editor did not spot these errors--all the more so given that it was published by a major academic press led by a scholar who himself authored an excellent commentary on Parzival!

These flaws are not serious, though they are not exactly negligible either. I point them out, however, more as an aid for potential readers of this book who wish to follow up on Schmitz's references rather than to detract in any way from the book's overall quality. Schmitz has performed a great service to readers of Parzival, for which she is to be highly commended (and one can only hope that having produced a commentary does not, for her, provide to be "academic suicide" in the long run). Her commentary is of very high quality; it will be indispensable for scholarship on this text, and no library claiming to support scholarship on Middle High German literature can afford to be without it.



1. Wolframs von Eschenbach Parzival und Titurel, ed. Karl Bartsch, fourth edition by Marta Marti, 3 vols (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1927–1932); Ernst Martin, Wolframs von Eschenbach Parzival und Titurel, vol. 2: Kommentar (Halle: Verlag der Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses, 1903).

2. Wolfram von Eschenbach: Parzival, ed. Eberhard Nellmann, with a translation by Dieter Kühn, 2 vols (Frankfurt a.M: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1994).

3. Gisela Zimmermann, Kommentar zum VII. Buch von Wolfram von Eschenbachs "Parzival" (Göppingen: Kümmerle, 1974).

4. Birgit Eichholz, Kommentar zur Sigune- und Ither-Szene im 3 Buch von Wolframs "Parzival" (138,9-161,8) (Stuttgart: Helfant, 1987); David N. Yeandle, Commentary on the Soltane and Jeschute Episodes in Book III of Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (116,5- 138,8) (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1984).

5. Susanna Backes, Von Munsalvaesche zum Artushof: Stellenkommentar zum fünften Buch von Wolframs Parzival (249,1- 279,30) (Herne: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Kunst, 1999); Gisela Garnerus, Parzivals zweite Begegnung mit dem Artushof: Kommentar zu Buch VI/I von Wolframs Parzival (280, 1-312, 1) (Herne: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Kunst, 1999); Simon J. Gilmour, Daz sint noch ungelogeniu wort: A Literary and Linguistic Commentary on the Gurnemanz Episode in Book III of Wolfram's Parzival (161, 9-179, 12) (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 2000); Heiko Hartmann, Gahmuret und Herzeloyde: Kommentar zum zweiten Buch des Parzival Wolframs von Eschenbach, 2 vols (Herne: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Kunst, 2000); Christa-Maria Kordt, Parzival in Munsalvaesche: Kommentar zu Buch V/1 von Wolframs Parzival (224,1-248,30) (Herne: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Kunst, 1997); Holger Noltze, Gahmurets Orientfahrt: Kommentar zum ersten Buch von Wolframs Parzival (4,27-58,6) (Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 1995). This appeared in Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum 142 (2013): 128-132.

6. Joachim Bumke, Die Blutstropfen im Schnee: über Wahrnemung und Erkenntnis im "Parzival" Wolframs von Eschenbach (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2001).

7. D. H. Green, "The Concept 'âventiure' in 'Parzival'," in D. H. Green and L. P. Johnson, Approaches to Wolfram von Eschenbach: Five Essays (Bern: Peter Lang, 1978), 83-161.

8. Martin H. Jones, "Richard the Lionheart in German Literature of the Middle Ages," in Richard Coeur de Lion in History and Myth, ed. Janet L. Nelson (London: King's College London Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies, 1992), 70-116, at 92-100.

9. Shami Ghosh, "Condwiramurs," Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 82 (2008): 3-25.

10. Annette Volfing, "Welt ir nu hœren fürbaz? On the Function of the Loherangrin-Episode in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (v. 824, 1-826, 30)," Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur 126 (2004): 65-84.

11. Horst Brunner, "Wolfram von Eschenbach: 'Parzival'--zum Verhältnis von Fiktion und außerliterarischer Realitätserfahrung," in Handbuch der Literatur in Bayern, ed. Albrecht Weber (Regensburg: Pustet, 1987), 89-98.

12. Henrike Lähnemann and Michael Rupp, "Erzählen mit Unterbrechungen. Zur narrativen Funktion paranthetischer Konstruktionen in mittelhochdeutscher Epik," Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur 123 (2001): 353- 378.

13. Herbert Grundmann, "Rotten und Brabanzonen. Söldner-Heere im 12. Jahrhundert," Deutsches Archiv für Geschichte des Mittelalters 5 (1942): 419-492.

14. Günther Blaicher, "Das Weinen in mittelenglischer Zeit: Studien zur Gebärde des Weinens in historischen Quellen und literarischen Texten," doctoral dissertation, Universität des Saarlandes 1966.

15. Given the context, I suspect this is a reference to Friedrich Ohly's book of 1940, reprinted in 1969 (not 1968), and also not listed in the bibliography: Sage und Legende in der Kaiserchronik: Untersuchung über Quellen und Aufbau der Dichtung (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1969 [originally Münster: Aschendorff, 1940]).

16. Samuel Singer, Bemerkungen zu Wolframs Parzival (Halle: Niemeyer, 1898); Georg Misch, "Wolframs Parzival. Eine Studie zur Geschichte der Autobiographie," Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 5 (1927): 213-315.

17. Margret Sauer, Parzival auf der Suche nach der verlorenen Zeit: ein Beitrag zur Ausbildung einer formkritischen Methode (Göppingen: Kümmerle, 1981); Arthur B. Groos, "Time Reference and the Liturgical Calendar in Wolfram's 'Parzival'," Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 49 (1975): 43-65, which is reprinted in revised form as chapter five of his 1995 monograph, which is listed in Schmitz's bibliography.

18. Kurt Gärtner, "Die Constructio apo koinou bei Wolfram von Eschenbach," Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur (Tübingen) 91 (1969): 121-259; I am able to identify two German translations of monographs by Jacques le Goff published in 1989, of which, from the context, it seems most likely that Schmitz refers to the translation of his Marchands et banquiers du Moyen Age (Paris: Presses universitaires du France, 1956).

19. Malcolm Letts, "Prester John: a Fourteenth-Century Manuscript at Cambridge," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Series 4 29 (1947): 19-26.

20. Most likely Herbert Kolb, "Von Marroch der mahmumelîn. Zur Frage einer Spätdatierung von Wolframs 'Parzival'," Euphorion 82 (1988): 251-260; potentially also Herbert Kolb, "Afrikanische Streiflichter. Detailstudien zu Wolfram," Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen 225 (1988): 117-128.

21. Martin Gosman, "Otton de Freising et le Prêtre Jean," Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire 61 (1983): 270-285; Martin Gosman, "La légende du Prêtre Jean et la propagande auprès des croisés devant Damiette (1218-1221)," in La Croisade--Realités et fictions, ed. Danielle Buschinger (Göppingen: Kümmerle, 1989), 133-142; Claude Lecouteux, Kleine Texte zur Alexandersage, mit einem Anhang: Prestre Jean (Göppingen: Kümmerle, 1984); I am uncertain to which of Claude Lecouteux's many publications of 1983 Schmitz refers.

22. Michael Stolz (ed.), Münchener Wolfram-Handschrift (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, cgm 19) (Simbach am Inn: Müller und Schindler, 2008) [CD-ROM and booklet].