, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 521–542 | Cite as

The monster outside and within: medieval literary reflections on ethical epistemology. From Beowulf to Marie de France, the Nibelungenlied, and Thüring von Ringoltingen’s Melusine



While previous research has often reflected on the phenomenon of monsters in medieval literature, identifying them as existential threats, reflections of imagination, or as symbols of the monstrous and evil in an apotropaic sence, here I suggest to refine our investigations of monsters in light of their epistemological function. Examining literary examples from the early to the late Middle Ages (Beowulf to Melusine), we can recognize how much monsters indeed serve consistently for the development of the individual protagonists, for coping with otherness at large, which commonly rests within the heroes and heroines as part of their characters. External challenges thus prove to be reflections of internal problems and issues, and the struggle against the monsters constitutes a struggle against or with the self.


Monster lore/teratology Epistemology Beowulf Marie de France Nibelungenlied Thüring von Ringoltingen Melusine Character formation Self Other 


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of German StudiesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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