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Neumarkt, P. (1973). Hartmann von Aue: The Psychologism of a Medieval Poet. Am. Imago, 30(2):157-176.

(1973). American Imago, 30(2):157-176

Hartmann von Aue: The Psychologism of a Medieval Poet

Paul Neumarkt, Ph.D.

Among the medieval poets that follow in the tradition of the Arthurian legend, the work of the German epic poet Hartmann von Aue (ca. 1160-1220) has an eminent place. Reference is here made in the main to Der arme Heinrich (The Poor Henry), the last of his creative works. To some extent, the epic Gregorius which, according to most scholars, precedes the former, will be dealt with to die extent that it has particular bearing on the later work. While, in his earlier works Erek and Iwein, there is little poetic ingenuity or deviation from the tradition of the Arthurian writers, the poet rises to the level of maturity and creative independence in his last two epics. The number of contributions that have appeared in the field of Hartmann research exceed all expectations. But it is not only in scholarly endeavor that the interest in this poet has been kept alive. Gerhart Hauptmann's drama Der arme Heinrich and Thomas Mann's novel The Holy Sinner (Der Erwählte) are modern versions of Hartmann's work. It is not known whether Der arme Heinrich is an original creation or whether Hartmann recreated some ancient legend, as was customary in those days. The story, as told by the poet, has a didactic, religious quality which undoubtedly served its purpose in the closely knit medieval society of his day. There is, however, a deeper stratum of perception which reveals quite a different story, a story replete with crime, incest, catatonic delusions, expiation of guilt, which lies well covered beneath a veneer of poetic craftsmanship and wit. When the poet resorted to this kind of literary subterfuge, he provided the necessary Protean garb for his shocking message in order to ensure its survival in an era of superstition and narrow-mindedness.

Der arme Heinrich is the story of a noble knight who, according to the standards prevailing at that time, leads a “flawless” life.

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