Violence and Conflict Resolution in Hartmann von Aue's Erec and Iwein, Wirnt von Grafenberg's Wigalois, and Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival
University of Kansas
Germanic Languages & Literatures
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This dissertation advances research by George Fenwick Jones, Richard Kaeuper, Warren Brown, and Gerd Althoff, analyzing violence and conflict resolution in four Arthurian romances that emerged from a culture that viewed (justified) violence as a legitimate means of attaining and maintaining honor. Using Kaeuper's analysis of the spiritual valorization of knighthood in Holy Warriors: the Religious Ideology of Chivalry (2009) and Jones's analysis of honor in Honor in German Literature, I show functions of spirituality and the pursuit of honor in literary conflicts, discussing how virtues such as mâze and êre served as catalysts for violence as an expectation of the unwritten code of knightly virtues. Fictional violence falls into two major categories: chivalric and non-chivalric. Chivalric violence includes all forms of battle within the vocation of knighthood, such as jousting. Catalysts for chivalric violence include âventiure, minnedienst, vassal obligation, independent fighting, etc., and may involve both intended and unintended violence. Chivalric violence includes violence against, and perpetrated by, other knights, and violence against non-human creatures. Non-chivalric violence includes those categories of violence not within the knightly vocation, such as direct and indirect violence of knights against women, the violence of women toward others, violence against the self, and the wrath of God. Similar, but not identical, to the categories chivalric/non-chivalric are the categories justified/unjustified. I consider these aspects of violence in four courtly works: 1) Erec (circa 1190) and 2) Iwein (circa 1203), by Hartmann von Aue, 3) Wigalois (circa 1210), by Wirnt von Grafenberg, and 4). Parzival (circa 1210), by Wolfram von Eschenbach, analyzing manifestations of violence according to the aforementioned categories, suggesting motivations with consideration to courtly virtue(s) that may have demanded violence, as in the defense of honor or the lack of virtue. This dissertation confirms that the spiritual validity of knightly violence, the preferred form of conflict resolution, is assumed in Arthurian romance; alternative means of resolution invite accusations of cowardice. The concept of êre, so pivotal to the “code” of knightly virtues in the Middle Ages, was intimately and unequivocally linked to violence; this study even contends that it was predicated upon it.
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