The Northern Way

Honor in German Literature


This is not a history of German literature. It is a study of the concept of honor as expressed in German literature, and it selects and treats literary works only in relation to the light they throw upon this subject. Therefore the discriminating reader must not be offended if many important works are neglected and less important ones are discussed, or if Sudermann is cited more than Goethe. Also, original verse is quoted as prose, although nothing is more prosaic than a literal prose translation of rimed verse. It is hoped that non­-Germanists will not be prejudiced against German literature by these matter-of-fact samples.

To make this study accessible to the non-specialist, all quotations from the older literatures are translated into English; the original passages being relegated to the notes. Although this study deals chiefly with German literature and civilization, it aims to be of interest to those concerned with the history of ideas in general. It avoids German terminology except for a few frequently used terms,

mostly archaic, which cannot be translated adequately because they have no English equivalents or because their meanings changed too radically during the period in question. All these terms are explained when first introduced and are also listed in the index.

For the benefit of non-Germanists, the following often-used terms and abbreviations are explained in advance:

Old High German (OHG), the language of the southern and middle parts of Germany from ca. 750 to ca. 1100 A.D.

Middle High German (MHG), the language of the southern and middle parts of Germany from ca. 1100 to ca. 1350.

Early New High German (ENHG), the transitional stage between Middle High German and New High German, from ca. 1350 to ca. 1650.

New High German (NHG), the standard literary language of Germany from ca. 1350 to the present.

Low Germany, the northern part of Germany, the low coastal plain.

Germanic or Teutonic, pertaining to the Germanic peoples or Teutons, a family of closely related tribes of Northern Europe, from which are descended the English, Scandinavians, Germans, Dutch, and Flemings.

German, pertaining to the people of Central Europe who speak Germanic dialects, including the Germans, Austrians, Alsatians, and German Swiss.

High Middle Ages, in Germany the period roughly from 1150 to 1250, known also as the Hohenstaufen period.

It is to be noted that, for convenience, German terms will be spelled in their MHG form, even though they may have been spelled or pronounced quite differently during the specific period under discussion. Also, for the benefit of non-Germanists, most proper names and the titles of literary works are anglicized. French scholars see fit to speak of Rodolphe de Neuchatel instead of Ruodolf von Niuwenburg, and German scholars see fit to speak of Wilhelm von Conches instead of Guillaume de Conches. This is particularly justifiable in the case of medieval names, which were often not standardized and were unlike their modern derivatives. American historians speak of the emperors Henry and Frederick instead of Heinrich and Friedrich, and there is no reason why the American Germanists cannot do likewise. If they did so, perhaps old German literature would not be so unfamiliar to most Americans.

I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to the many friends and colleagues who .have so generously aided me with advice, sugges­tions, and criticism. A list of all their names would make too imposing a dedication for this modest volume. I also wish to thank the Research Committee of Princeton University for finan­cing the typing and publication of this book.

Goucher College

September 1959


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