Roman sentimental in the middle ages? Mai und Beaflor as a literary reflection of the medieval history of emotions

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Abstract

The history of emotions in the Middle Ages has been the subject of much debate in recent research. The essential question proves to be whether the display of emotions can be considered to be purely an aspect of performance and ritual, or whether it is also a significant feature in literary works. Whereas modern literary scholarship has assumed that the sentimental novel did not emerge prior to the eighteenth century, stressing the significance of emotions as key components in the texts of this period, the anonymous Mai und Beaflor from the late thirteenth century can be shown to be based on the development of and approaches to emotions as the most central bond underlying the human community. The social, moral, and ethical value of the characters is here defined by the degree and authenticity of their emotions, a feature which forces us to re-evaluate this previously neglected and negatively viewed late medieval romance. Moreover, the emphasis on emotions as critical elements in the development of plot points to a need to establish the specific criteria relevant to the literary genre if we are to do justice to Mai und Beaflor, rather than assessing its literary-historical value in terms of the classical Middle High German texts of an earlier period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-100
Number of pages18
JournalOxford German Studies
Volume35
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2006

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middle ages
emotion
history
high German
thirteenth century
authenticity
eighteenth century
Emotion
Medieval History
Medieval Period
History of Emotions
Values
religious behavior
genre
justice
community
performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

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title = "Roman sentimental in the middle ages? Mai und Beaflor as a literary reflection of the medieval history of emotions",
abstract = "The history of emotions in the Middle Ages has been the subject of much debate in recent research. The essential question proves to be whether the display of emotions can be considered to be purely an aspect of performance and ritual, or whether it is also a significant feature in literary works. Whereas modern literary scholarship has assumed that the sentimental novel did not emerge prior to the eighteenth century, stressing the significance of emotions as key components in the texts of this period, the anonymous Mai und Beaflor from the late thirteenth century can be shown to be based on the development of and approaches to emotions as the most central bond underlying the human community. The social, moral, and ethical value of the characters is here defined by the degree and authenticity of their emotions, a feature which forces us to re-evaluate this previously neglected and negatively viewed late medieval romance. Moreover, the emphasis on emotions as critical elements in the development of plot points to a need to establish the specific criteria relevant to the literary genre if we are to do justice to Mai und Beaflor, rather than assessing its literary-historical value in terms of the classical Middle High German texts of an earlier period.",
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