Walther von der Vogelweide, Crusader Lyric, and the Discourse of the Muslim Other

  • Jerold C. Frakes
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In considering the genre of courtly lyric, the point to be made seems rather a simple one, which can provide a guide through a convoluted morass of evidence: although Crusader lyric, that is, the subgenre of courtly lyric that makes pointed use of the Crusades, rarely deals directly with issues of geopolitics, the discursive modes of the Muslim Other already established in other contemporaneous genres are ever present (as the relatively rare, brief, and oblique Crusade-related references make clear); the power and reach of those discourses are displayed even where one least expects them and is even tempted not to look for them or recognize them when they do appear. This discourse is—not surprisingly— not what one finds in Hrotsvit’s “Pelagius,” the Ludus de Antichristo,.or Wolfram’s epics, but it does display identifying features directly dependent on genre (lyric) and the conditions of reception (e.g., royal patrons and their knightly vassals who were themselves Crusaders). This last feature is of primary significance, for despite the fact that lyric generally makes less overt extra-textual reference, the situation of political Crusader lyric is obviously quite concrete indeed, much moreso than, for instance, the fictions of Wolfram’s pseudo-Muslim Zazamanc. While there is no need to interpret Crusader lyric as autobiographical, the genre’s engagement with the Crusades does nonetheless presuppose the presence of actual Christian knights in actual Muslim territories.


Twelfth Century Historical Reality Lyric Poet Poetic Work Crusade Lyric 
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  1. 2.
    Paul Zumthor, Parler du Moyen Age (Paris: Minuit, 1980), p. 44; noted by Cathrynke Th. J. Dijkstra, “Les Chansons de croisade: Tradition versus subjectivité,” in Literary Aspects of Courtly Culture, ed. Donald Maddox and Sara Sturm-Maddox (Rochester, NY: Boydell and Brewer, 1994), p. 95 [95–103].Google Scholar
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    Silvia Ranawake, “Walther von der Vogelweide und die Trobadors: Zu den Liedern mit Kreuzzugsthematik und ihrem literarischen Umfeld,” Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen 236 (1999): 3 [1–32].Google Scholar
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    For the biographical interpretation and the identification (on that basis) of which poets were Crusaders, see especially Elizabeth Siberry, “Troubadours, Trouvères, Minnesingers and the Crusades,” Studi Medievali 29 (1988): 20–36 and Jackson, “Das Kreuzzugmotiv,” p. 20.Google Scholar
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© Jerold C. Frakes 2011

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  • Jerold C. Frakes

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