The author of Anthology of Medieval German Literature: ~750-1500, Professor Albert K. Wimmer, was kind enough to ask me for a preface: «Habent sua fata libelli»! I am happy to oblige for several reasons. The reading of Older German Literature in the United States is definitely on the decline. This handsome collection of reading material was specifically composed to help reverse this deplorable trend. Here comes along a meticulously planned and carved selection, finally replacing its predecessor, the formerly popular An Anthology of German Literature 800-1750 by Peter Demetz and the late W.T.H. Jackson (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, NJ., 1968), the copyright of which had expired. This intellectual forerunner has long been out of print, and yet, for various technical reasons, it could not be reused in its then existent form. In the opinion of many teachers of Older German Literature in the U.S. there existed a gap which readers manufactured in the Federal Republic could not close. It took Wimmer’s courage and persistence to compose a new edition from scratch, and come up with a solution which combines representative selections from modern up-to-date editions with contemporary German translations (which leave Pegasus in the stable), all done by acknowledged German medieval scholars—a sore point in Professor W.T.H. Jackson’s forerunner part, which contained nary an original line and relied too often on Wilhelm Hertz’s nineteenth-century translations. They had a peculiar ‘mossy’ ring not conducive to converting students’ beginning interest into permanent liking of our literature.
The selections here made public are historically well-spaced and didactically very useful, making it a handsome companion which at the same time contains a grain of esthetic beauty, welcomed by the colleagues in the field. On the other hand, the selections ought also to be pleasing to the students, who can now familiarize themselves more accurately than ever before in the U.S. with fundamental generic distinctions of older German epic and lyric poetry. The classroom teacher does not necessarily have to follow the outline in a slavish fashion, and the reader may ‘browse around’ a little, before a more scientific interest might take a hold. A whole class could decide which area to stress, and hopefully which of the texts might be read in their entirety.
Last but not least I am happy to preface this fine anthology for professional reasons. I was present when the former anthology made my former boss at Yale and his
secretary very nervous; I taught it often until the edition could no longer be purchased; I had frequently made notes in my copy which I could pass along to younger and more enthusiastic quarters at Notre Dame. With these prefacing words I am saying «aulde lang syne» to this beautiful German poetry, long my almost daily companion. The call to clarify in writing the culture of German cities in the form of an atlas (in the literary Dutch sense) made it imperative to resettle in the old country which I left thirty years ago. This is my public farewell then to Older German Literature as I liked to teach it in the Yale tradition and at the University of Florida. I wish all prospective readers well, and to this anthology all the success it deserves:
"Und biten umb unser schulde dich, daz dû uns sîst genædiclich... " Walther von der Vogelweide, "Got, dîner Trinitâte" (L. 7, 33-34)Christian J. GellinekProfessor of GermanArbeitsstelle Deutsche StadtkulturUniversity of FloridaInstitut für vergleichende StädteforschungUniversity of Münster, FRG
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