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Publisher Description

The literary canon, firmly circumscribed and defined by numerous literary histories which establish the standards of our field, provides a most useful hermeneutic framework for everything we do in literary studies, hence in German Studies. Yes, Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka have proven to be giants in our field. And so have Heinrich von Veldeke, Hartmann von Aue, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Gottfried von Strassburg, Walther von der Vogelweide, and many others. What can the current state of art in Medieval Studies tell us about the problematic issues concerning the canon (see the new Handbook of Medieval Studies, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010)?. Both in research and in teaching there are always two stages in the critical treatment of the canon. Pedagogically it seems most advisable at first to present our students with the canon and to help them to digest it thoroughly, so that they can easily draw connections and move from one author/poet to the other, can explain historical, aesthetic, and social developments, and are informed enough to recognize genres, common motifs, the essential Stoff of a text, and thus can comprehend how to differentiate among the various literary periods. However, although the canon proves productive for pragmatic purposes, it may also turn out to be stifling and blinding in the long run if we do not establish a healthy distance from it. Critical interpretations and meticulous analyses have regularly brought about so-called "cultural or literary turns"; they have helped us to recognize heretofore unknown poets and texts, and have forced us to reveal ideological biases, religious manipulations, and political agendas hidden in literary texts that make up our canon. Case in point: the rediscovery of Oswald von Wolkenstein (1376/77-1445) in ca. 1959. Since then we have also begun to explore, invigorated by the insights which Oswald's poetry has provided us, the rather refreshing and impressive poetry by the so-called Monch von Salzburg, Hugo von Montfort, and Michel Beheim.

January 1
American Association of Teachers of German
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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