Written by Esther Laufer. Published December 2016. ISBN 9780854572533
How can you fathom a bottomless abyss? How can you capture ineffable beauty in words? How do you narrate the master of all stories? These are the challenges that the seasoned poet Konrad von Würzburg set himself when he composed his account of the Trojan War from a multitude of sources at the end of the thirteenth century.
It has long been recognized that Konrad is an exceptionally self-conscious author who frequently reflects on the nature, status and function of poetry and at times appears more concerned with the sparkling surface of his discourse than with the events he narrates. Taking these observations, which are usually based on individual passages of the text, as a starting point this study presents the first comprehensive treatment of metapoetics in the Trojanerkrieg. As well as focusing on traditional and often discussed loci of metapoetic significance – such as the prologue or the detailed descriptions – it also uncovers the far-reaching network of explicit and implicit metapoetic expression that permeates the text on every level even though its multifaceted imagery and arguments resist translation into the language of formal literary theory. The fact that Konrad’s metapoetic vocabulary regularly draws on imagery of religious origin, in particular, offers a new perspective from which to address the controversial question of the Christian author’s attitude towards the pagan splendour of the narrated world. The book also makes a broader contribution to medieval literary studies, in that it highlights the pitfalls of metapoetic interpretation and maps out a space of possible conceptualizations of textuality, language and poetry in Middle High German poetry as well as the relationship between secular and religious literature.