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by Martin Ederer ture. Key works here often Agricola, Johannes Reuchlin,

For many of us German litera- imitate French genres. Courtly Willibald Pirckheimer and Con-
ture is terrifying. We have love poetry, the Minnesang, date rad Celtis – wrote primarily in

heard of authors such as Goethe to this time. One of the most Latin, some, like Celtis, actively

and Schiller, maybe, but in a dis- significant Minnesänger was sought to collect and catalogue

jointed and haphazard way. This Walther von der Vogelweide. German-language works of litera-

guide is designed to at least pro- Wolfram von Eschenbach’s ture.

vide some basic periodization and Parzival also dates to this time. The ultra- (cultural) national-

names – and this will take a series Parzival drew heavily on French ist Ulrich von Hutten was always

of articles. traditions of the courtly romance. unstable, but he’s always fun to

It bears mention at the outset Then there was the survival of the read. He wanted to reform the

that any vernacular literature was heroic epic. The most notable church, became a Lutheran…and

rare anywhere in western Europe Albertus Magnus. from this period was the Nibelun- then died of syphilis. Poor Lu-
until the high to late Middle Ages genlied. Unlike earlier epics that ther! A persistent theme for all the

(1200s-1300s). Although Latin tics such as Albertus Magnus and used alliterative verse, this actual- humanists was the need for

didn’t magically disappear at that writers such as Hildegard of Bin- ly rhymed. church reform.

time as the primary language of gen. During this time any works The Nibelungenlied played a The advent of printing around

writers – it would continue to be of actual German-language litera- major role in shaping Richard 1450 changed everything. Books

so well into the 1600s – it faced ture were few and far between. Wagner’s nineteenth-century renschiff belonged to a growing now became plentiful and inex-

increasing competition. This was German-language medieval Ring Cycle of operas, although genre of German literature decry- pensive. Vernacular Volksbücher

thanks in part to more easily literature is classified as Old High there are fewer similarities be- ing corruption in the Catholic multiplied. The Protestant Refor-

available papers and moveable- German, Middle High German, tween the original epic and the Church. mation got underway. That was

type printing, the latter’s Europe- and Late Medieval/Renaissance. operas than we may think. For When humanism expanded as much a revolution as it was a

an debut the work of Mainz in- Old High German (750-1050) one thing, there’s a lot more Dan- northward from Renaissance Ita- reform. Either way, the Reforma-

ventor Johannes Gutenberg runs from the Carolingian period ube than Rhine! ly, it generated a German human- tion was a literary game-changer

around 1450. to the Ottonian period. Some of Next comes the Late ist tradition. Although most of all the way around. But more on

This all means that most of the the most notable works from this Medieval/Renaissance/Reforma these writers – figures like Rudolf that some other time.

literary output of earlier German time is the Heliand and the Hil- tion period, which (very argu-

writers was in Latin. Major Caro- debrandslied. The Heliand is a ably) ran from c. 1350 on through

lingian works, for example, were life of Christ cast as a heroic epic the 1500s. Some literary histori-

composed in Latin. This would in Old Saxon, and the Hildeb- ans classify some works from the

include Einhard’s biography of randslied is a heroic verse that earlier end as still Middle High

Charlemagne and Notker the probably draws on a much older German. This may include Hein-

Stammerer’s Gesta Caroli Mag- oral tradition of ancient Germanic rich Wittenwiler’s Ring and poet-

ni. Consider all the Latin-lan- stories. ry by Oswald von Wolkenstein

guage works of the German The Middle High German and Johannes von Tepl. Other

theologians and canonists during period (1050-1350) marks signif- later figures include Hans Folz

the Investiture Struggle, scholas- icant growth in vernacular litera- and Sebastian Brant, whose Nar-
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