GER 511

Course materials:

 Ger 511: Communication and Miscommunication in Middle High and Late Medieval German Literature, Fall 2020

(last updated 11-15-19)

Instructor: Professor Albrecht Classen
Office: 318 LSB (you can always stop by whenever you like), but please wear a mask and watch social distancing

Tel.: 621-1395



Office Hour: TT 9 a.m. – 10 a.m., and after appointment. I am regularly in my office 7/24

In Fall 2020, no in-person office hour. Call or email me, then I’ll open a zoom meeting and let you in. Very flexible hours, always available for you.


R P Harvill Bldg, Rm 452

Meeting Time: 4-6:30 p.m.

We might have to meet online the entire semester, 2020, so I have created a zoom meeting at:

It will be available for us until the end of the semester. If we can meet in person, great, if not, then zoom. Sept. 15: zoom, for certain.

  • Face coverings are required in our classroom: Per UArizona’s Administrative Directive, face coverings that cover the nose, mouth, and chin are required to be worn in all learning spaces at the University of Arizona (e.g., in classrooms, laboratories and studios). Any student who violates this directive will be asked to immediately leave the learning space, and will be allowed to return only when they are wearing a face covering. Subsequent episodes of noncompliance will result in a Student Code of Conduct complaint being filed with the Dean of Students Office, which may result in sanctions being applied. The student will not be able to return to the learning space until the matter is resolved.
    • The Disability Resource Center is available to explore face coverings and accessibility considerations if you believe that your disability or medical condition precludes you from utilizing any face covering or mask option. DRC will explore the range of potential options as well as remote course offerings. Should DRC determine an accommodation to this directive is reasonable, DRC will communicate this accommodation with your instructor.
  • Physical distancing is required in our classroom: During our in-person class meetings, we will respect CDC guidelines, including restricted seating to increase physical distancing.  Any student who does not maintain physical distance from others may be asked to immediately leave the learning space. Noncompliance may result in a Student Code of Conduct complaint being filed with the Dean of Students Office, which may result in sanctions being applied.
  • Classroom attendance:
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    • Notify your instructors if you will be missing an in person or online course.
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    • Visit the UArizona COVID-19 page for regular updates.
  • Academic advising: If you have questions about your academic progress this semester, or your chosen degree program, please note that advisors at the Advising Resource Center can guide you toward university resources to help you succeed.
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  • Equipment and software requirements: For this class you will need daily access to the following hardware: [laptop or web-enabled device with webcam and microphone]; regular access to reliable internet signal; ability to download and run the D2L site (chatroom), and Top Hat LMS.
    • For lecture recordings, which are used at the discretion of the instructor, students must access content in D2L only. Students may not modify content or re-use content for any purpose other than personal educational reasons. All recordings are subject to government and university regulations. Therefore, students accessing unauthorized recordings or using them in a manner inconsistent with UArizona values and educational policies are subject to suspension or civil action.

Course Objectives:
One of the key issues affecting modern society seems to be communication, or rather miscommunication. Perhaps not so 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. As our target of study, we’ll use a selection of medieval German texts.

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.

Student Learning Outcomes; By the end of the semester, students will be able to engage critically with the issue of communication in the Middle Ages, will know a solid selection of critical texts from that time period, and will have acquired the skill to write about the crucial issues in solidly researched papers on the graduate level.

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) (now available online, on my webpage (Middle Ages, Literature, English translations of medieval lit.)

3. Nibelungenlied, now available online, on my webpage

4. Die deutsche Geschichte im Mittelalter – online at:

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

5a. Teil 2 von  Melusine

6. Literaturgeschichte – knapper Ueberblick

7. Das Mittelalter, Kultur und Geschichte

8. Freidank und Maeren

9. Literatur von Frauen im Mittelalter

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, but simply communicate with me if you have some problems. See also below.


1.Oral report and written version: Critical summaries of at least two recent scholarly articles on one or two of our texts discussed in class: oral report (ca. 10-15 minutes) and written summary, ca. 4 pp.: total: 15% – present orally, i.e., in rough brush strokes, giving us the main thesis, when we discuss that text (7.5%), the written version, expanded, please (with full reflections and a more extensive discussion), needs to be submitted before the end of the semester (7.5 %). 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, must be by a serious scholar, including myself, of course. One of the articles and your summary must be in German. Purpose: we need to learn what various scholars have discovered about our texts.

2. Weekly report of our class discussion in writing (in German), always due every second Fri at 2 p.m., online, ca. 300 words, 7 times, in German. 25%

3. Two exams, with essay questions, 15% each = 30%

4. Final exam, also with essay questions = 30%

Ph.D. student/s: different arrangements to focus more on research. I suggest: Write a paper each instead of the exam, selecting 2-3 texts each. A general thesis would be welcome, but is not necessary. More important, for each paper you write, create a bibliography of ca. 10 recent studies (maybe 4 on text a, 4 on text b, 2 on text c; if you choose 2 texts: 5+5, if you chose 4 texts: 2+6+2, etc.), and integrate the findings of 3 of them into your paper, as a summary or as a critique. Please consult with me in person in preparation for your work. The bibliography serves to give you practical experience working with the various bibliographical sites. You can cite here monographs or articles. Each paper, ca. 5 pp., or ca. 1500 words. Bibliography at the end, divvied up by primary text. Use technical jargon such: Wie J. Schmitt argumentiert, or: laut Jan-Dirk Mueller, Gemaess Franz Jacobs Auffassung, or: Waehrend Kaiser behauptet, dass…., sehe ich dies doch etwas anders, we’ll… Obwohl Timmens meint, kann dies doch nicht ganz stimmen, denn…

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 List (not necessarily in a chronological order, which should also serve you to prepare for the Master Exam, if you want me to be on your committee (which would be my pleasure):

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 (Walther von der Vogelweide, Johann von Botenlauben, Albrecht von Johannsdorf, Heinrich Morungen, etc.)
23. Heinrich Wittenwiler: Ring
24. Mai und Beaflor
25. Mauritius von Craun
26. Herzog Ernst
27. Georg Wickram
28. Hans Sachs
29. Martin Luther
30. Till Eulenspiegel

31. Sebastian Brant

32. Thomas Murner

33. Hans Wilhelm Kirchhof
34. Frau Ava

35. Hildegard von Bingen

36. Ulrich Bonerius


This class will be conducted mostly in German (in spoken and written form).

Aug. 25: 1. Introduction; Historical and Cultural Time Frame of the Middle Ages: 2. study the intro to both of our textbooks; 3. consult the Handbook of Medieval Studies, ed. A. Classen, online in our library (search under title, 4. see my article on communication (and have it read, if possible, at least using the sub-heading). Meeting online on zoom.
Geschichte: this refers to the online link, see above, textbooks, no. 4, but there are countless other options. We will discuss the time frame, the major cultural features, the literary history, genres); We read for today: Ludwigslied (example of Old High German Literature): for an English translation, see:


Issues: 5. historical periods; 6. different stages of German language; 7. literary genres; 8. modes of communication; 9. literature as a means of communication. Example: 10. Ludwigslied. Wir nehmen dafuer die PPP auf D2L, unter Content.

Sept. 1: Zaubersprüche; Hrotsvitha von Gandersheim (all)


Sept. 4: Report 1

Sept. 8: Wir treffen uns zuerst auf zoom, um etwas bibliographisch zu erarbeiten. Dann schliessen wir mit Hrotsvit ab (auf D2L chatroom). Zuletzt wenden wir uns Hartmann von Aue, Der arme Heinrich, zu. Jeder entscheidet sich bitte, zu welchem Dichter sie im Laufe des Semesters vorstellen wollen (Forschung, Grading, Nr. 1).

Sept. 15: cont. with Hartmann von Aue: Matt bietet seinen wiss. Bericht ueber HvA

Sept. 18: Report 2

Sept. 22: Walther von der Vogelweide: L8.4; L 8.28; L 9.16; L 28.31; L. 124.1; L. 14.88; L 39.11; L. 46, 32.

Sept. 25: 1st exam is due

Sept. 29:  Nibelungenlied (this is a long text, please plan more time to read it, in English): ch. 1-10. Bitte jeder liest den ganzen Text. Aufgabe dann aber:

Immer ca. 5 Fragen auf Deutsch an die einzelnen Kapitel: Tolu: 1 und 6, Gertus, 2 und 7, Matt 3 und 8, Richmond, 4 und 9, Ciara: 5 und 10. Wir machen dies mal wieder auf chatroom in D2L, damit Sie leichter Ihre Fragen kopieren koennen und wir zugleich eine gut archivierte Diskussion schriftlich fuehren.


Text auch:…

Oct. 2: Report 3

Oct. 6: NL: ch. 11-20, 25-28, 36-39

Oct. 13: Wolfram von Eschenbach: Titurel (note: you need to inform yourself about Wolfram’s Parzival in order to understand his Titurel, so please read about it in one of the literary histories): Richmond

Oct. 16: Report 4

Oct. 20: Mechthild von Magdeburg: Einleitung,Fragen zum Text, Prolog, und I-XXIX. Buch II, XXVI (Ciara)

Oct. 27: another long text: Gottfried von Strassburg (Gertus), Tristan, ch. 1-15 – if you use the English trans. by Kline online (on my webpage), there is a different chapter sequence. For today: Parts I-VI.

Oct. 30: 2nd exam due, 2 p.m., on D2L

Nov. 03: Tristan, ch., 16-29 (according to Kline: Parts VII-XI). In Gottfried’s romance, there is no conclusion after Tristan has encountered Isolde Whitehand, so we won’t read that.


Nov. 6: Report 5

Nov. 10: Spätmittelalter (dafür gibt es viele Quellen und Studien, sogar Wikipedia ist für unsere Zwecke ok, siehe z.B. online) Oswald von Wolkenstein

Nov. 17: Thuering von Ringoltingen (Tolu), Melusine

Nov. 20: Report 6

Nov. 24: Melusine

Dec. 01: Maeren: Ruprecht von Wurzburg

Dec. 04: Report 7

Dec. 08: Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrücken: Sibille

See also this concise biographical entry

Final exam (comprehensive): due on Dec. 11, 2020 (on D2L) – I will post it at 10 a.m., due at 1 p.m.

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.