The mirror image in Neidhart's poetry: Destabilization of the social structure by means of sexual competition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

While the mirror emerged as an important cultural icon for high medieval courtly society since the eleventh and twelfth centuries with ever more technical improvements, it also quickly gained in symbolic significance, indicating the fall of traditional courtly society. This finds its perhaps most vivid expression in the poetry by the conservative social critic, the Austrian or Bavarian Neidhart (first half of the thirteenth century). In his poems he increasingly employs the icon of the mirror which the peasant lads take away from the young women, which badly grieves the knightly figure Neidhart von Reuental. The ever growing social and economic tensions between the peasant class and the aristocracy is thus expressed in highly dramatic terms, since the loss of the mirror means not only (possibly) the woman's rape, but also the destruction of all traditional values embraced by courtly society. In this regard, Neidhart's poems and those by his numerous imitators far into the late Middle Ages demonstrate the great symbolic power of the mirror in which they recognized the lost ideals of courtliness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-188
Number of pages24
JournalStudi Medievali
Volume55
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

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