I have been tied up with a manuscript (watch this space!) recently, as unfortunate colleagues who have borne the brunt of the angst will know, so it’s been a while since I last posted on here. Apologies.
One question that’s been on my mind a lot in that time is just what it means to think across national boundaries when working on the Middle Ages. One of the problems seems to me to be that it is much easier – convenient, even – to dismantle paradigms than make them. Thus, it is reasonably well recognized by now that the idea of national literatures as fields of study took shape in conjunction with the rise of nation states and so on. But what exactly does one do in response – constructively I mean, rather than merrily spending one’s energies writing off the scholarship of a different era (now there is something for a future blog post)?
It is not as if there aren’t any efforts to deal with the way in which writing in German was intertwined with writing in different languages, be it through translation or other forms of exchange: volume 16 (2006/7) of the Jahrbuch der Oswald von Wolkenstein Gesellschaft, for instance, on Scandinavia; the recently completed volumes of Germania Litteraria Mediaevalis Francigena on France; or a volume of the ‘Wolfram-Studien’ (XIII = 1992) on Prague and Bohemia. There are more that could be added to the list – and that, in a sense, underlines the point: it is a landscape of fragmentation and bursts of activity that seem to fade away again, without there having emerged an inclusive way of thinking that brings the strands together. Not in the sense of knowing everything, but in the sense of an approach or framework that opens ‘German’ literature as a concept or literary space rather than reaching out periodically only to close it in again time after time. I like to think that my work on narrative form might turn out to be one little step down that road.