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Wirnt von Gravenberg's Wigalois: Intertextuality and Interpretation

Wirnt von Gravenberg's Wigalois: Intertextuality and Interpretation

Neil Thomas
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 180
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  • Book Info
    Wirnt von Gravenberg's Wigalois: Intertextuality and Interpretation
    Book Description:

    Arthurian romance flourished in medieval Germany, but the pre-eminence of Wolfram von Eschenbach has perhaps overshadowed some of his successors. This book focuses on Wirnt von Gravenberg's Wigalois, the later thirteenth-century Arthurian romance. It argues that whereas authors such as Der Stricker and Der Pleier follow the example of Hartmann von Aue by limiting themselves to an exploration of the pragmatics of the (fictional) chivalric value-system, the lay ethicist Wirnt chooses to examine the spiritual dimension of knightly existence, a theme first broached in the German context by Wolfram in his Grail romance, Parzival. Wirnt frames his romance as a corrective to that of his predecessor by creating a form of kingship for his hero which is more practicable than Wolfram's millennial 'Grail realm'. Rejecting the notion of an ideal space altogether, Wirnt's naturalistic descriptions of his hero's kingship give expression to a harmonisation of Arthurian and theocratic elements. The author thus suggests that Wigalois is not so much a paler imitation of Parzival as a creative confrontation with the thought-world of its more famous predecessor.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-436-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
    Neil Thomas
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction: The Problematic Reception
    (pp. 1-10)

    The early thirteenth-centuryWigalois(recte Gwîgalois)² by Wirnt von Gravenberg (the modern Gräfenberg near Bayreuth) exerted as great an appeal for medieval audiences as did the ‘classical’ Arthurian romances of Hartmann von Aue and Wolfram von Eschenbach. Since Wirnt’s romance is not so well-known in our own age as those of Hartmann and Wolfram, a brief overview of its main stages is here given at the outset.³

    Wigaloisbegins with the account of how Gawein is taken from the Arthurian court by Joram, the denizen of a distant realm where the goddess Fortuna is said to be the tutelary deity....

  6. 1 Contesting the Canon
    (pp. 11-43)

    In this chapter the donor-and-recipient model traditionally said to dominate later medieval literature is challenged in favour of a narrative model which in a related context has been termed the ‘literary tiltyard’ (Anne-Marie D’Arcy)³. Since I wish to argue from an extensive corpus of evidencecumulativelytending to oppose the common opinion, I commence with a contextualising excursus showing from a range of examples how the surprisingly tenacious notion that later authors were simply derivative of their predecesssors is in fact often flatly contradicted by the testimony of the literary archive. I then relate this finding toWigaloisand its...

  7. 2 Knights of Fortune
    (pp. 44-59)

    In the following discussion the frequent invocations of Fortuna’s talismans are construed as the narratorial attempt to forge a moral link between the protagonist and his legendary father, Gawein, through the technique of associating both knights with the (purportedly) supernatural tokens of the goddess. The evocations of the (upper-case) ‘Saelde’ (Lady Fortune as a personified deity) and of lower-case ‘saelde’ (good fortune in a general sense) are largely instrumental to this purpose of underscoring the father-son bond. It will be shown that relatively less interest is shown in depicting Wigalois as acting under the tutelage of the goddess of the...

  8. 3 Saint and Sinner
    (pp. 60-85)

    ‘Saelde’ in the reduced sense of ‘knightly good fortune’ established in the usage of Wirnt, Heinrich von dem Türlin and Ulrich von Zatzikhoven plays a symbolic role (albeit a somewhat circular, tautologous one) whilst the protagonist is establishing parity with his father, but for his spiritual challenges he requires greater resources than the habitual skills of a man-at-arms. In the infernal realms awaiting him lurk adversaries different in kind from the bizarre creations we encounter in the works of Der Stricker, Der Pleier and other ‘ post-classical’ authors (a factor not widely acknowledged in discussions ofWigalois).³ These monsters are...

  9. 4 Realism and Realpolitik
    (pp. 86-103)

    The contrast in tone between the hero’s infernal journey and his dedication of himself to the practical duties of kingship in the last section of the romance (whose 3800 lines comprise about a third of the total number) is conspicuous. In the following discussion I consider the possibility that the tone of pragmatic realism in this section (which is almost certainly a Wirntian innovation) may have contained an implied critique of Wolframian hyberbole in his vaulting but vague evocations of the Grail realm. The assimilative stance towards the non-Christian combatants displayed inWigaloismay in one sense be a working...

  10. 5 Romance and Exemplum
    (pp. 104-118)

    The author ofDer Jüngere Titureldescribed his work as ‘nothing but a sermon’ (‘niht wan eine lere’),² an expression which could as well be used in approximate terms to characterise Wirnt’s narratorial stance. Against the notion ofWigaloisas a romance merely offering light relief (Unterhaltungsroman), I shall in this chapter consider how Wirnt shaped his romance as a sermon for his times by endorsing the historicity of King Arthur, the better to be able to draw on the fabled king’s authority as a role model with whom to link his title hero. I go on to suggest reasons...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 119-123)

    This study began by addressing the problem most frequently posed aboutWigalois, namely, why should a text often understood in the modern era as one on the face of it deriving its substance from the same style, conventional machinery and range of motifs as the romances of Wolfram von Eschenbach, Hartmann von Aue and other ‘classical’ writers have held such a great appeal for medieval audiences. In analysing this issue I concluded that the question was in part misconceived. The method of collecting verbal or motif correspondences as proof of later poets’ dependence on their predecessors (as practised by an...

  12. Appendix: Summaries of Related Romances
    (pp. 124-133)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 134-154)
  14. Index
    (pp. 155-168)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 169-172)