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The innovative perception of space (Europe) in late medieval German literature: the spatial turn in light of Eleonore of Austria’s Pontus und Sidonia (ca. 1450–1460)


The meaning of space with respect to human beings finds vivid expression in literary texts throughout world history. But even though literary protagonists travel on a regular basis and thus experience themselves and the reality around them quite dramatically, space remained a rather vague dimension far throughout the Middle Ages. By the fifteenth century, however, we recognize a noteworthy paradigm shift regarding the perception and relevance of space as a relevant entity determining the individual’s life, as reflected by poets and writers across Europe. After reviewing how most medieval poets dealt with space, this phenomenon is then discussed particularly in light of Eleonore of Austria’s Pontus und Sidonia (ca. 1450–1460), where the western world of Europe in its geo-political dimension emerges perhaps more clearly than ever before and where space in concrete geo-political terms matters significantly, setting a new tone which would lead over to the early modern age and facilitated an astounding popularity of this novel far into the eighteenth century.

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    I refrain deliberately from providing biographical and historical dates or references to the critical editions of the individual texts because these names and titles belong to our common knowledge among medievalists and simply make up markers on an intellectual map that I am trying to sketch out broadly as a basis for my actual argument.

  2. 2.

    For convenience sake, see the solid survey article online at (last accessed on July 13, 2015).

  3. 3.

    See (last accessed July 12, 2015), which provides a concise definition, useful excerpts from Bakthin’s essay, and critical comments. For recent discussions of this concept, see the contributions to Bakhtin and his others: (inter)subjectivity, chronotope, dialogism, ed. by Steinby and Klapuri (2013).

  4. 4.

    For a list of place names along the British shoreline today, see (last accessed on July 13, 2015).


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Classen, A. The innovative perception of space (Europe) in late medieval German literature: the spatial turn in light of Eleonore of Austria’s Pontus und Sidonia (ca. 1450–1460). Neohelicon 43, 543–557 (2016).

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  • Space in ancient and medieval literature
  • The spatial turn in the late Middle Ages
  • Eleonore of Austria
  • Pontus und Sidonia
  • England in late medieval German literature
  • Courtly love and marriage
  • Political dimension in medieval literature