The amazing east and the curious reader: Twelfth-century world exploration through a writer's mind: Lamprecht's Alexander

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The late twelfth-century Middle High German Alexander romance by the Pfaffe Lamprecht, here considered in its Strasbourg manuscript, presents one of the many versions of Alexander the Great's adventures and conquest of the Persian empire. Although the narrator places considerable emphasis on the marvels and miracles characteristic of the mythical East, at least in the eyes of the European audiences, our poem reveals an intriguing novelty in its development of the literary discourse. Most of the events in Alexander's life are reflected through a letter which the Greek king writes back home to his mother Olympia and his teacher, the philosopher Aristotle. A close reading of this letter indicates that Alexander demonstrates a high degree of curiosity, but he never fully reaches any understanding of the phenomena passing in front of his eyes. Only when an old man, guardian of terrestrial Paradise, presents Alexander with a mysterious stone, does he realize that he has to return home. With the help of a wise old Jew the secret messages contained in the stone are finally revealed to the reader. The stone represents a kind of book, a "Fürstenspiegel," which teaches Alexander the true virtues of a king. Insofar as Alexander immediately changes his attitude and behavior, the poem demonstrates the new significance of 'written' documents or books for the human quest of wisdom and truth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-339
Number of pages23
JournalOrbis Litterarum
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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