Advertisement

Der guote Gêrhart: The power of mobility in the medieval Mediterranean

  • William Crooke
Article

Abstract

This essay revisits Rudolf von Ems's extraordinary thirteenth-century Middle High German romance. Where most readers see a moral exemplum focused on the piety of the titular protagonist, this essay brings out the importance of the merchant's Mediterranean adventures and cross-cultural know-how: his traffic in silk from Middle Eastern centers, his knowledge of French as Mediterranean lingua franca, his cordial relations with the ‘heathen’ burgrave of Morocco. When Gêrhart is shipwrecked on the North African coast, his ability to cross multiple geographical and cultural spaces results in a momentary recoding of ‘good’ from the noble and, above all, spiritual values of the German imperial court to ‘movable goods’ [varnde guot] – the precious cargo that the merchant uses to ransom the burgrave's noble Christian captives. In Rudolf von Ems's artful language, Gêrhart is ‘good’ in multiple, potentially incompatible ways.

Notes

Acknowledgements

My thanks to the organizers and members of the 2010 NEH Summer Institute in Medieval Mediterranean Studies for their interest in this project. Special thanks to Peregrine Horden for his encouragement.

References

  1. Andersen, E.A . 2006. Rudolf von Ems. In German Literature of the High Middle Ages, ed. W. Hasty, 225–233. Rochester, NY: Camden House.Google Scholar
  2. Bartlett, R . 1993. The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change 950–1350. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Brodman, J . 2006. Community, Identity and the Redemption of Captives: Comparative Perspectives across the Mediterranean. Anuario de Estudios Medievales 36 (1): 241–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burns, E.J . 2002. Courtly Love Undressed: Reading through Clothes in Medieval French Culture. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burrow, J.A . 2002. Gestures and Looks in Medieval Narrative. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Closs, A. and T.P. Williams . 1963. Heath Anthology of German Poetry. Boston, MA: Heath.Google Scholar
  7. Crooke, W . 2008. Mysticism as Modernity: Nationalism and the Irrational in Hermann Hesse, Robert Musil and Max Frisch. Oxford, UK: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  8. Gibbs, M.E . and S.M. Johnson . 2000. Medieval German Literature: A Companion. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Gicquel, B . 1978. ‘Der guote Gêrhart.’ De l’herméneutique à l’analyse de systèmes, en passant par le texte. Etudes Germaniques 33 (2): 181–186.Google Scholar
  10. Goitein, S.D . 1967–1993. A Mediterranean Society. 5 vols. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  11. Haug, W . 1997. Rudolf von Ems’ Der guote Gêrhart: A Programmatic Rejection of the Correlation between Merit and Reward. In Vernacular Literary Theory in the Middle Ages: The German Tradition, 800–1300, in Its European Context, trans. J.M. Catling, 289–299. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Haverkamp, A . 1992. Medieval Germany: 1056–1273, trans. H. Braun and R. Mortimer. 2nd edn. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Jackson, W.H . 2000. Chivalric Vocabulary in the Works of Rudolf von Ems. In Blüttezeit. Festschrift für L. Peter Johnson zum 70. Geburtstag, eds. M. Chinca, J. Heinzle and C. Young, 427–443. Tübingen, Germany: Niemeyer.Google Scholar
  14. Kahn, L . 1939. Rudolf von Ems’ Der gute Gerhard: Truth and Fiction in Medieval Epics. Germanic Review 14: 208–214.Google Scholar
  15. Kartschoke, D . 1995. Der Kaufmann und sein Gewissen. Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 69 (4): 666–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kinoshita, S . 2004. Almería Silk and the French Feudal Imaginary: Towards a ‘Material’ History of the Medieval Mediterranean. In Medieval Fabrications: Dress, Textiles, Clothwork, and Other Cultural Imaginings, ed. E.J. Burns, 165–176. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kinoshita, S . 2006. Medieval Boundaries: Rethinking Difference in Old French Literature. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kinoshita, S . 2009. Medieval Mediterranean Literature. PMLA 124 (2): 600–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Polo, M . 1958. The Travels, trans. R. Latham. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.Google Scholar
  20. Riley-Smith, J . 1987. The Crusades: A Short History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Rocher, D . 1977. Un Couronnement ambigu: Ascension sociale et noblesse morale dans le ‘Guoter Gêrhart’ de Rudolf von Ems. Etudes Germaniques 32 (2): 144–153.Google Scholar
  22. Rodriguez, J . 2007. Captives and Their Saviors in the Medieval Crown of Aragon. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press.Google Scholar
  23. Rudolf von Ems . 1971. Der guote Gêhart, ed. J.A. Asher. Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer Verlag.Google Scholar
  24. Tinsley, D.F . 2011. Mapping the Muslims: Images of Islam in Middle High German Literature of the Thirteenth Century. In Contextualizing the Muslim Other in Medieval Christian Discourse, ed. J.C. Frakes, 65–101. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Van D'Elden, S.C . 1988. Black and White: Contact with the Mediterranean World in Medieval German Narrative. In The Medieval Mediterranean: Cross-Cultural Contacts, eds. M.J. Chiat and K.L. Reyerson, 113–118. St. Cloud, MN: North Star Press.Google Scholar
  26. Von Ertzdorff, X . 1967. Rudolf von Ems. Untersuchungen zum höfischen Roman im 13. Jahrhundert. München, Germany: Fink.Google Scholar
  27. Walliczek, W . 1993. Rudolf von Ems: Der guote Gêrhart. In Interpretationen Mittelhochdeutsche Romane und Heldenepen, ed. H. Brunner, 255–270. Stuttgart, Germany: Reclam.Google Scholar
  28. Zöller, S . 1993. Sus Zierte Keiserlîche/Sîn Name Roemisch Rîche. Zu einer Neudatierung des ‘Guoten Gêrhart’ von Rudolf von Ems. Zeitschrift für Deutsche Philologie 112 (3): 358–382.Google Scholar
  29. Zöller, S . 2001. Von Zwîfel und Guotem Muot. Gewissensentscheidungen im ‘Guten Gerhard’? Zeitschrift für Deutsches Altertum und Deutsche Literatur 130: 270–290.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Crooke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Literature and LanguageEast Tennessee State UniversityJohnson City

Personalised recommendations