The Beginnings of German Literature

July 2002
14 black and white illustrations
215 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571132352
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, LIT011000

The Beginnings of German Literature

Comparative and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Old High German

Cyril Edwards

A study of the breakthrough of the Germanic vernacular dialects into the realm of written language between the eighth and tenth centuries.
For the German-speaking peoples under the Carolingians (c. AD 750-950), the dominant literary tongue was Latin, the lingua franca of the Christian West. Before the eighth century only isolated words, legal terms, and proper names from the vernacular dialects had found their way into manuscripts. Cyril Edwards's collection of essays examines the breakthrough into literacy of the dialects known collectively as Old High German in the south and Old Saxon in the north. In an introductory essay, Edwards surveys the recording and survival of the earliest continuous German texts. This leads into seven essays, each inspired by a fresh look at the manuscripts. Two are concerned with the Wessobrunn Prayer, the earliest religious poem in German. A third looks at the destructive application of acids to medieval manuscripts in an attempt to read barely legible letters; it concentrates upon the Hildebrandslied, the only surviving Old High German heroic lay, and the ninth-century eschatalogical poem, the Muspilli. Two studies are devoted to the Merseburg Charms, pagan survivals in a Christian manuscript, invoking gods familiar from the Old Norse pantheon. A study of the earliest traces of the love-lyric follows, poems that slipped through the net of censorship imposed by the Christian church. A final essay is concerned with the Ossian of the period, an ingenious forgery that was a cause célèbre in the nineteenth century, the Old High German Lullaby.

Cyril Edwards is a Lecturer in German at St. Peter's College, Oxford, and an Honorary Research Fellow of University College London. He has published numerous articles on medieval German literature and co-edited a book on the medieval German lyric. He is currecntly preparing a new translation of Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival and Titurel.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Recording and Survival of the Earliest German Texts
Tohû wabohû: The Wessobrunner Gebet and Its Analogues
Ego bonefacius scripsi? More Oblique Approaches to the Wessobrunn Prayer
"Unlucky Zeal": The Hildebrandslied and the Muspilli under the Acid
The Merseburg Charms: Contexts and Function
The Merseburg Charms: Conjectures
The Beginnings of the German Lyric
The Strange Case of the Old High German Lullaby


Offers rewarding reading for any student of Old High German who already knows something about the subject and who wants more information and a broader background.MEDIEVAL REVIEW

These essays, without exception, contain a wealth of useful information and a rare sense of context that showcase the author's investigative skill and range of knowledge.

Quite an enjoyable book from which students and scholars of Germanic literatures can learn much. JOURNAL OF ENGLISH AND GERMANIC PHILOLOGY

...a strong contibution to the study and understanding of German literature and language.... GERMANIC NOTES AND REVIEWS

A collection of specialized essays that definitely deserve our attention. GERMANISTIK

Edwards's book makes for a fascinating, well-researched, and well-written excursion into the background of some works most familiar to those ... who teach Old High German. It will be of interest for everyone who has anything to do with medieval manuscripts, comparative mythology, and earliest attested Germanic literature. MONATSHEFTE

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