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Exempel und Exempelsammlungen.

Ed. by Walter Haug and Burghart Wachinger, Fortuna Vitrea, 2 (Tubingen: Max Niemeyer, 1991). viii + 317 pp. ISBN 3484-15502-7. DM 86.

This second volume in the highly promising (and handsomely produced) new series Fortuna Vitrea contains twelve essays which stem from an Arbeitsgesprach held at Schlob Reisenburg near Gunzburg in 1988. It is to be welcomed for a number of reasons, not least because it contains studies of several texts which have hitherto remained largely unknown, at least to Germanists. Perhaps the most important of these is the Specalum Moralium Virtutum by Engelbert, Abbot of Admont from 1297 to 1327. In the context of guidance on how to converse which Engelbert gives in Book x of this Furstenspiegel, he defines and differentiates between various narrative genres (including exemplum, which he interestingly regards as practically synonymous with historia). These rare and instructive late mediaeval attempts at literary categorization are analysed by Fritz-Peter Knapp, whilst an essay by Peter von Moos investigates the importance of Engelbert's Book x for the study of mediaeval conversation. Other works to which the reader is introduced include the so-called Exempelwerk der englischen Bettelmonche, a fourteenth-century compilation of four diverse exemplum collections (Nigel F. Palmer); the Tractatus Moralis de Ocalo of Peter of Limoges, which appears to have been valued in the Middle Ages primarily for its numerous exempla (Richard Newhauser); and two fifteenth-century German works which contain substantial corpora of exempla (or fables) in the Nurnberger Prosa-Asop (Klaus Grubmuller) and the Seelenwurzgarten (Werner Williams-Krapp). Newhauser's article and that of Brigitte Weiske, which is devoted in large measure to the Solsequium of Hugo von Trimberg, also shed light on the textual history of that most famous of all exemplum collections, the Gerta Romanorum: the fact that material from this compilation was known to both Peter (writing between 1275 and 1289) and to Hugo (whose Solsequium was completed in 1284) suggests that some form of Ur-Gesta must have existed well before the end of the thirteenth century.

Readers whose concept of the exemplum is informed primarily by their knowledge of the Gesta Romanorum or of other works whose exempla consist of narratives followed by point-by-point allegorical interpretations, will find their thinking challenged and broadened by several essays in this new book. For example, the studies of Newhauser, Palmer, Volker Mertens and above all Christoph Daxelmuller draw attention to a variety of exempla in which narratives as such do not play a part; moreover, whilst Grubmuller's contribution underlines the importance of allegorical method in many exemplum collections, especially of the fifteenth century, other essays (notably those of Weiske and Williams-Krapp) demonstrate that detailed allegorical interpretations were far from invariable features of such works. The widespread assumption that exempla were designed primarily for use by preachers is also challenged to some extent, particularly by the evidence provided by Daxelmuller and Newhauser of their appearance in scientific treatises in the later Middle Ages and the early modern period, and by Mertens and Burghart Wachinger of their intended use in private devotions and in learned conversation by sixteenth-century laymen.

Several essays examine the ways in which exemplum collections were structured, and point to an intriguing range of possibilities: exempla were, for example, arranged according to sources (Weiske), the stages of the Heilsgeschichte Wilhams-Krapp), or, especially in Protestant contexts, the decalogue (Wachinger); and they were of course also embedded in various ways within an overall narrative framework (Walter Haug).

The usefulness of this generally excellent volume is enhanced by Jacques Berlioz's thorough survey of research on exempla published by French scholars between i 96 8 and i 98 8, but is unfortunately reduced by the frustrating absence of an index.
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Author:Harris, Nigel
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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