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13.10.19, Hahn, Geschichte der Mittelalterlichen Deutschen Literatur Thüringens

13.10.19, Hahn, Geschichte der Mittelalterlichen Deutschen Literatur Thüringens

In an introduction and four chapters (II. Frühzeit "The Early Period," III. Literatur im Umkreis des Landgrafenhofs "Literature in the Circle of the Landgrave's Court", IV. Wandlungen vom Hoch- und Spätmittelalter "Transformations from the High to Late Middle Ages", and V. Spätmittelalter "The Late Middle Ages"), Reinhard Hahn of the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena views medieval German literature through a lens of regional literary history already (mis-)applied by successive generations of scholars with interests in the east central region of the Holy Roman Empire, from philologists of the NS-period to those in the GDR.

This book is neither hobbled by ideology nor a mere catalogue of texts with some connection to a physical space. However, while it is a welcome contribution to the study of regional vernacular literature of medieval Germany, Hahn is clear about his methodological and evidential barriers, noting early that demarcating a literary territory across shifting political and geographical borders is made even more difficult by the chronological development of Old High German (OHG) to Middle High German (MHG) and the intervening or contemporary Latin or mixed Latin-German influences. Of greater importance than authorial origin or dialect are the concepts of exchange and transfer, whether the residency of "foreign" poets in the literary circles of Thuringian courts and urban centers or the activities of Thuringians elsewhere, particularly the fertile literary centers of the southern and western polities. Hahn highlights this situation by drawing a parallel between the medieval periods and Weimar Classicism's Wieland, Herder, Goethe, and Schiller, who hailed from elsewhere but resided, interacted, and developed in Thuringian literary centers, and the medieval periods.

By discarding the literarische Landschaft or Heimat undergirding of past approaches to regional literature in favor of interregionality and shared space, shedding the stereotypical designation of the Middle Ages as 500-1500 in favor of a model closer resembling the chronology of OHG and MHG literature, and clarifying that OHG is a helpful concept for a dialect continuum rather than a unified language, the book frequently offers basic information, presumably for non-specialist readers. Alongside a discussion of the earliest applicable runic inscriptions and glosses with some toponymic or demonymic significance for the region, the Lex Thuringorum features as a later reflection of words and concepts relevant in previous centuries. Here the evidence is weighted toward clear parallels with Frankish and more often Saxon sources, but the North Sea influence on Thuringian legal language documents early the transfer of lexis and textual traditions.

Other sources into the High Middle Ages outside the traditional categories of German literature or otherwise lost include the posited Iringlied, which may or may not have existed as such, but there probably was a heroic legend either written or oral and mentioned by Gregory of Tours and later by Widukind of Corvey, detailing the downfall of the Thuringians in 531; two vitae of Mathilde composed in the largely-Latinate interim between OHG and MHG textual traditions; psalm translations and other biblical fragments; passion plays; fragments of Sedulius' Carmen Paschale; Der arme Hartmann's Rede vom Glauben; and Wernher von Elmendorf's Tugendlehre. The latter two are noteworthy, the first for the difficulty in ascribing a transmission history to East Middle German on the basis of a thirteenth-century Alsatian witness and other factors, and the second for the rare combination of composer, commissioner, and place of origin within the 1170/80 text, a versification and catalog of the Moralium dogma philosophorum. This serves as a point of departure for a thorough discussion of the Ludowing landgraviate, whose literary tastes and sponsorship over the twelfth century developed a small regional literature composed primarily of religious texts and translation.

A high point in traditional literary histories, which will be handled only briefly here, arrives with Hahn's treatment of several major figures and works within the genres of romances and legends of antiquity: Heinrich von Veldeke (Eneit), Herbort von Fritzlar (Liet von Troja), and Albrecht von Halberstadt (a reworking of the Metamorphoses); and the lyric: Heinrich von Veldeke, Heinrich von Morungen, Walther von der Vogelweide, and Wolfram von Eschenbach. There appears to have been a preference for antique themes and stories at the court of Hermann I, Landgrave of Thuringia, but not all texts attributed at one time or another to the court are as likely as those previously mentioned. Eilhart's Tristan, Graf Rudolf, Athis und Prophilius, Otte's Eraclius, and the Pilatus may be misattributed on philological, chronological, or spatial grounds, and the necessity of speaking of a Hessian-Thuringian sphere of influence around 1200 render settled judgments doubtful. Likewise, the lyric poet Otto von Botenlauben was probably active to the south in Staufer circles. The earliest Minnesinger in Thuringia, Hug von Salzâ, left no traces other than a name. Most of the space devoted to the period around 1200 centers on stylistic considerations of Heinrich von Veldeke, Heinrich von Morungen, Wolfram, and Walther, all of whom either met one another or became acquainted with the others' works while at the Thuringian court. Transfer through regional centers finds its ideal in the confluence of time, place, and major poets.

The fourth chapter details later Minnesang and Minnereden, Sangspruchdichtung, the "Wartburgkrieg," the Jüngerer Titurel of Albrecht (perhaps Albrecht of Scharfenberg, perhaps not), and other texts, including more readily locatable short narratives (Erzählungen) and a deep introduction to the religious literature associated with the Thuringian geographic and cultural region. Texts and manuscripts from the German Order also make an appearance, both from local houses and connections to other houses and activities in Prussia, the Baltic, and the Levant. The final chapter describes in detail the historical writings and historiography of high and late medieval Thuringia (as Hahn notes, despite the title, it is not simply a chronological continuation of the preceding chapters); religious and secular plays; political lyrics; and a that series of genres often appended to literary histories of the Middle Ages--scientific, medical, travelogues, and "pragmatic" literatures of all kinds. In later periods attribution becomes easier, resulting in a richer mapping of place, author, commissioner, interregional connections, and local versus wider influences via events such as the Crusades, trends in writing vernacular municipal laws, and texts associated with newly organized religious houses that spread into Thuringia. Likewise, urban centers such as Erfurt and Mühlhausen, alongside religious houses, replace courts as the primary sites of intellectual transfer and composition.

The lack of a concluding chapter is alleviated by the frequent reminders of scope and aims in the first half, but these diminish somewhat in the second half. For the specialist, Geschichte der mittelalterlichen deutschen Literatur Thüringens offers in some places only overviews of well-known issues, figures, and texts, while in others the book presents in great detail lesser-known texts and lays the groundwork for how current scholarship can and should approach regional literary production and identity in periods for which evidence is by nature fragmentary and inconclusive. For the non-specialist, Hahn's literary history serves as a remarkably thorough introduction to the genres and modes of production in medieval German literature with a regional focus, which will be of use far beyond the universities and libraries in the present state of Thüringen. Although the question of Thuringian association is often answered negatively or ambiguously, Hahn generally--and carefully--avoids contestable attribution in favor of demonstrating the philological, literary, and historical considerations surrounding texts, textual production, and manuscript history. As a selected catalogue of texts associated with the region, as well as a model of understanding both the earlier courts of wandering noble sponsors and the later developments in less-mobile literary centers, Geschichte der mittelalterlichen deutschen Literatur Thüringens provides a valuable contribution to the field and a framework for updated localized literary histories of the German-speaking Middle Ages.