GER 511

 Ger 511: Communication and Miscommunication in Middle High and Late Medieval German Literature, Fall 2018

(last updated 3-14-18)

Instructor: Professor Albrecht Classen
Office: 318 LSB

Tel.: 621-1395



Office Hour: TT 9 a.m. - 10 a.m., and after appointment

Classroom: tbd
Meeting Time: TT 2-3:15 p.m.

Course Objectives:
One of the key issues affecting modern society seems to be communication, or rather miscommunication. Surprisingly, medieval authors also addressed this issue and dealt with it in multiple fashions. In order to develop a specific focus for our course, we will examine the questions how individual authors dealt with communication and how they projected the ideal of a communicative community, but also what were the causes for the breakdown of society. We will examine our topic from various perspectives, such as female versus male attitudes, the function of discourse, the historical development of the literary examples, the role of the Church, and, above all, the relevance of the human language in a literary world where chaos seems to threaten to undermine all human existence. Basically, however, all literary texts reflect on communication and represent it at the same time.

Course Goals:
Familiarity with a selection of the most important literary texts from the high and late German Middle Ages; a rudimentary ability to read Middle High German; a rough understanding of the historical development of medieval German literature; a clear concept of women’s role in the history of medieval German literature; familiarity with some of the most recent critical studies on our topic; the ability to address the issue of communication from the perspective of medieval literature; insights into the social and cultural history of medieval Germany; critical approaches to a wide range of medieval literary texts in light of communication versus miscommunication.

Instead of focusing on the communicative aspect exclusively, we will try to cover as much ground in the history of medieval German lit. as possible, hence the larger text selection.

Class Structure: Since some of you have already studied the same or similar texts with me in the past, this course will proceed much faster and require in advance study of each text so that we can synthesize and compare texts within one session. This will require a bit more reading on your part, esp. because we'll meet only once a week.

Text Selection:
1. A. Classen, Das deutsche Mittelalter in seinen Dichtungen. 4th ed. (Tucson: Fast Copy, 2009); online at: PDF (free)

2. Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan (Penguin)

3. Nibelungenlied (Penguin)

3. Die deutsche Geschichte im Mittelalter - online at: (see the password listed there)

4.Thüring von Ringoltingen: Melusine.Aus dem Frühneuhochdeutschen übertragen ins Neuhochdeutsche von Gerhard Wahle


Please make sure that you do not print out any of these class materials on departmental printers. We do not have the money for that and must strictly appeal to the honor system to abide by this rule.

Secondary Reading (recommended):

Gerd Althoff, Die Macht der Rituale: Symbolik und Herrschaft im Mittelalter (Darmstadt: Primus, 2003).
A. Classen, Verzweiflung und Hoffnung. Die Suche nach der kommunikativenGemeinschaft in der deutschen Literatur des Mittelalters. Beihefte zur Mediaevistik, 1 (Frankfurt a.M.-et al.: Peter Lang, 2002).
Michael Mitterauer, Warum Europa? Mittelalterliche Grundlagen eines Sonderwegs (Munich: Beck, 2003).
Horst Wenzel, ed., Gespräche - Boten - Briefe. Philologische Studien und Quellen, 143 (Berlin: Schmidt, 1997).
Hilkert Weddige, Mittelhochdeutsche: Eine Einführung (Munich: Beck, 1996).

See also the bibliography to be handed out in class.


* Attendance is a must, there will be only 15 meetings during the semester. I expect you to have read the assigned texts before we meet in class. More than two unexcused absences lead to an automatic E in the course. See also below.


1. One critical summary of at least two recent scholarly articles on one of our texts discussed in class: oral report (ca. 10-15 minutes) and written summary, ca. 4 pp.: 30% - present orally when we discuss that text (15%), the written version needs to be submitted before the end of the semester (15 %). Articles can be in English or German (or French, Spanish, Italian, as it so happens), must have been published after 1980, in print or online. You can present the articles in the respective language it was written in, but one must be in German. Purpose: we need to learn what various scholars have discovered about our texts.
2. One bibliography for your specific term paper topic: written, to be distributed and discussed in class when we discuss the text: List ca. 20 titles, each accompanied by a brief explanation about its relevance: 20%. Again, nothing prior to 1960. No language limitations. I expect that you find ca.10 monographs and ca. 10 scholarly articles as a rule of thumb, but most important is to list the critically relevant research literature as a basis for a good paper.
4. One term paper: ca. 15 pages min., double spaced, 1" margins: 50% (I would prefer the paper to be written in German, but a combination would also be alright. Let's discuss that beforehand on an individual basis). Develop a good thesis, support it with solid arguments, and reach a convincing conclusion. Incorporate at least 5 outside sources of high scholarly value for your discussion. I'd be happy to provide you with feedback before you submit your paper, so let me see a draft version.

Ph.D. students are expected to pursue their research more profoundly and offer a more extensive perspective based on a critical engagement with the relevant research literature. Their term paper must indicate a fuller reflection of the relevant secondary literature and an attempt to analyze the texts more independently. Their paper must be at least 20-25 pp., with at least 10 outside sources incorporated.

Attendance: I expect you to attend all classes. Only serious circumstances and professional reasons would justify an excuse. Remember, we are going to meet only once a week.

All holidays or special events observed by organized religions will be honored for those students who show affiliation with that particular religion. Absences pre-approved by the UA Dean of Students (or Dean's designee) will be honored.

Student Behavior: 
The policy against plagiarism, etc., is in conformity with the Student Code of Academic Integrity. For policies against threatening behavior by students, see:

 Special Needs:
Students with special needs who are registered with the S.A.L.T. Center ( or the Disability Resource Center ( must submit appropriate documentation to the instructor if they are requesting special accommodations.

Suggested additional Reading Lis (not necessarily in a chronological ordert, which should also serve you to prepare for the Master Exam: 

1. Hartmann von Aue: Erec and/or Iwein 
2. Nibelungenlied and Kudrun
3. Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan
4. Wolfram von Eschenbach: Parzival and Willehalm - 
5. Wernher der Gartenære: Meier Helmbrecht
6. some texts from Der Stricker
7. Hrotsvitha von Gandersheim
8. Mechthild von Magdeburg: Das fließende Licht der Gottheit
9. Hildegard von Bingen
10. Argula von Grumbach
11. Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg
12. Johannes von Tepl, Ackermann
13. Sebastian Brant: Narrenschiff
14. Konrad von Würzburg, Engelhard
15. Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrücken (one of her four novels)
16. Thüring von Ringoltingen, Melusine
17. Fortunatus
18. Neidhart
19. Herzog Ernst
20. Oswald von Wolkenstein
21. Heinrich Kaufringer (Auswahl)
22. Minnesang
23. Heinrich Wittenwiler: Ring
24. Mai und Beaflor
25. Moriz von Craun
26. Herzog Ernst
27. Joerg Wickram
28. Hans Sachs
29. Martin Luther
30. Till Eulenspiegel


Aug. 26: Introduction; Historical and Cultural Time Frame of the Middle Ages: study the intro to both of our textbooks; consult the Handbook of Medieval Studies, ed. A. Classen, online in our library (search under title, see my article on communication.

Sept.  2: Labor Day: no class; let's use the time to consult individually what you might want to do your research on.

Sept. 9: Geschichte: 1.3 (this refers to the online link, see above, textbooks no. 3); Ludwigslied; Zaubersprüche; Frau Ava

Sept. 16: Hrotsvitha von Gandersheim (all)

Sept  23:Geschichte: 1.4 and 1.5; Hartmann von Aue, Der arme Heinrich; Hildegard von Bingen (all)

Sept. 30: Geschichte: 1.6; Wolfram von Eschenbach: Titurel (note: you need to inform yourself about Wolfram's Parzival in order to understand his Titurel, so please read in one of the literary histories)

Oct.  07: Geschichte: 1.7; Walther von der Vogelweide (all) (Lydia Heiss)

Oct. 14: Geschichte: 1.8; Neidhart (all)

Oct. 21: Geschichte: 1.9; Die Winsbekin (all) (Chelsea Steinert)

Oct. 28: Geschichte: 1.10; Mechthild von Magdeburg (Charly Mostert) and Helene Kottannerin

Nov. 4 : Geschichte: 1.11; Thuering von Ringoltingen, Melusine (Renae Bowen)

Nov. 11: Veteran's Day, no class, unless you are all willing to meet anyway??

Nov. 18: Geschichte: 1.12; Conclusion of Melusine; Maeren (all)

Nov. 25: Geschichte1.13; Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrücken: Sibille; Liederbuch der Ottilia Fenchlerin (Ethan Rogers)

Dec. 02: Sebastian Brant (all); Till Eulenspiegel (all) (Carolin Radtke)

Dec. 09: Argula von Grumbach (all) (Sarah Allen); Hans Sachs (all) (Diane Richardson)

Term Paper: due on Thu, Dec. 11, 2018!!!!

Possible Changes: The information contained in the course syllabus, other than the grade and absence policies, may be subject to change with reasonable advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.