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Reading the Medieval Book

Reading the Medieval Book

Word, Image, and Performance in Wolfram Von Eschenbach's Willehalm

Kathryn Starkey

“Original in its insights, lucidly argued, and rigourously coherent, Reading the Medieval Book makes a major, original statement on the relationship between text and image in medieval books.” —Sarah Westphal-Wihl, Rice University

Reading the Medieval Book examines one of the most important epic poems in thirteenth-century Germany and its redaction in a richly illustrated manuscript created just fifty-five years after the poem’s composition. Starkey’s book reveals that the Munich-Nuremberg manuscript (c.1270) of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Willehalm (c.1215) was compiled with both oral performance and the written medium in mind.

Wolfram contrasts the visual language of the court with the auditory one of the battlefield, drawing attention to the position of the narrator and the interpretive frame that he provides. The manuscript reflects Wolfram’s clear interest in the oral and visual communication that played such a dominant role in court society of the thirteenth century. Starkey argues that rather than merely depicting the events of _Willehalm_’s plot, the Munich-Nuremberg artists also visualized nuances and shifts in the text that may otherwise have become lost when the oral text was committed to the page. The Munich-Nuremberg redaction of Willehalm provides insight into the critical transition in the literary culture of lay people in the West from a primarily oral to a literate experience.

The interdisciplinary nature of this book will make it appealing and accessible to those interested in art history and cultural and literary history.

ISBN: 978-0-268-04108-3
256 pages
Publication Year: 2005

Kathryn Starkey is professor of German studies at Stanford University. She is the author of Reading the Medieval Book: Word, Image, and Performance in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Willehalm ; and co-editor of Visuality and Materiality in the Story of Tristan and Isolde , both published by the University of Notre Dame Press.

“On a road paved by recent scholarship on medieval manuscripts, narratology, reading and listening, Starkey progresses fast, putting together her own previous work to make a strong case for the ‘New Philological’ approach (considering each manuscript in its own right rather than working with modern editions) in a new area: that of thirteenth-century German writing. An eloquent, persuasive, purposeful, timely and important book.” — Times Literary Supplement

“Kathryn Starkey has given medievalists a fascinating and multi-disciplinary investigation into the dynamic process of artistic production and literary reception by examining a uniquely illuminated manuscript fragment of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Willehalm. This book is a significant contribution to our understanding of the dynamic period in the thirteenth century during which authors, artists, and audiences reflected on medium, on literature, and on the storytelling process. And perhaps most importantly, it is an incredibly stimulating book for medievalists of all disciplines.” — The Medieval Review

“Fine footnotes and a long list of works cited render this monograph a powerful tool for scholarly study. Recommended.” — Choice

“A seminal work of flawless scholarship, Reading the Medieval Book would serve as an ideal template for the study of other medieval poetry, and is particularly commended to students of Medieval era art history, culture, and literature.” — Midwest Book Review

“In a close reading of Wolfram’s unfinished heroic poem (composed before 1217), Kathryn Starkey examines the ways in which both text and manuscript thematize and reflect upon oral, written and visual communication. . . Throughout Starkey’s study, which looks closely at the distinct ‘levels’ of the fictional narrative and the iconography of the physical manuscript, the intrusive, idiosyncratic, and unreliable narrator who features prominently in both is of paramount importance. . . Starkey’s study sparks the reader’s curiosity to look more closely at the poem and the Munich-Nuremburg manuscript.” — Early Medieval Europe

“Starkey’s work is a fine illustration of the current methodology in both literary studies and art history, which emphasizes that texts and images must be examined in their original manuscript contexts for the important information these reveal about reception, both in the sense of audience and in the sense of ways and means of access to the text.” — Manuscripta

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Reading the Medieval Book

Word, Image, and Performance in Wolfram Von Eschenbach's Willehalm

Kathryn Starkey

 Reading the Medieval Book: Word, Image, and Performance in Wolfram Von Eschenbach's Willehalm
Cloth Edition
Paper Edition

“Original in its insights, lucidly argued, and rigourously coherent, Reading the Medieval Book makes a major, original statement on the relationship between text and image in medieval books.” —Sarah Westphal-Wihl, Rice University

Reading the Medieval Book examines one of the most important epic poems in thirteenth-century Germany and its redaction in a richly illustrated manuscript created just fifty-five years after the poem’s composition. Starkey’s book reveals that the Munich-Nuremberg manuscript (c.1270) of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Willehalm (c.1215) was compiled with both oral performance and the written medium in mind.

Wolfram contrasts the visual language of the court with the auditory one of the battlefield, drawing attention to the position of the narrator and the interpretive frame that he provides. The manuscript reflects Wolfram’s clear interest in the oral and visual communication that played such a dominant role in court society of the thirteenth century. Starkey argues that rather than merely depicting the events of _Willehalm_’s plot, the Munich-Nuremberg artists also visualized nuances and shifts in the text that may otherwise have become lost when the oral text was committed to the page. The Munich-Nuremberg redaction of Willehalm provides insight into the critical transition in the literary culture of lay people in the West from a primarily oral to a literate experience.

The interdisciplinary nature of this book will make it appealing and accessible to those interested in art history and cultural and literary history.

ISBN: 978-0-268-04108-3

256 pages

“On a road paved by recent scholarship on medieval manuscripts, narratology, reading and listening, Starkey progresses fast, putting together her own previous work to make a strong case for the ‘New Philological’ approach (considering each manuscript in its own right rather than working with modern editions) in a new area: that of thirteenth-century German writing. An eloquent, persuasive, purposeful, timely and important book.” — Times Literary Supplement

“Kathryn Starkey has given medievalists a fascinating and multi-disciplinary investigation into the dynamic process of artistic production and literary reception by examining a uniquely illuminated manuscript fragment of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Willehalm. This book is a significant contribution to our understanding of the dynamic period in the thirteenth century during which authors, artists, and audiences reflected on medium, on literature, and on the storytelling process. And perhaps most importantly, it is an incredibly stimulating book for medievalists of all disciplines.” — The Medieval Review

“Fine footnotes and a long list of works cited render this monograph a powerful tool for scholarly study. Recommended.” — Choice

“A seminal work of flawless scholarship, Reading the Medieval Book would serve as an ideal template for the study of other medieval poetry, and is particularly commended to students of Medieval era art history, culture, and literature.” — Midwest Book Review

“In a close reading of Wolfram’s unfinished heroic poem (composed before 1217), Kathryn Starkey examines the ways in which both text and manuscript thematize and reflect upon oral, written and visual communication. . . Throughout Starkey’s study, which looks closely at the distinct ‘levels’ of the fictional narrative and the iconography of the physical manuscript, the intrusive, idiosyncratic, and unreliable narrator who features prominently in both is of paramount importance. . . Starkey’s study sparks the reader’s curiosity to look more closely at the poem and the Munich-Nuremburg manuscript.” — Early Medieval Europe

“Starkey’s work is a fine illustration of the current methodology in both literary studies and art history, which emphasizes that texts and images must be examined in their original manuscript contexts for the important information these reveal about reception, both in the sense of audience and in the sense of ways and means of access to the text.” — Manuscripta

Poetics of Orality and Literacy