The fourteenth-century verse novella Dis ist von dem Heselin: Eroticism, social discourse, and ethical criticism

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Abstract

Late-medieval German literature offers many highly intriguing examples of erotic narratives structured and motivated in the manner of the fabliaux and novelle. One of these maeren, Dis ist von dem Heselin, composed sometime around 1300, presents an account of a tryst between a naive peasant maid and a young knight who barters a hare for her love. The narrative lives from the charming contrast between this young woman's ignorance of the true meaning of the word minne, or 'courtly love,' and the moral decline of the nobility. Whereas she freely and openly grants her love to the knight and later teils everything to her mother, who severely punishes her for her seeming stupidity, the knight's noble fiancée proves to be highly cynical and morally untrustworthy. Mocking the peasant maid during the wedding celebration and emphasizing her own intelligent behavior in hiding her numerous sexual contacts with the family's chaplain, she deeply shocks her fiancé, who then quickly changes the marriage arrangements and takes the peasant maid as his wife. The maid triumphs over the noble lady because of her simplieity, trustworthiness, and true love for the knight. Her moral infraction is easily forgiven because of her ignorance and naiveté, whereas her highly respected competitor for the knight's hand loses because she knows nothing of true love and morality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-277
Number of pages18
JournalOrbis Litterarum
Volume60
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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