Midterm – Part I


Long ago, my family lived as farmers outside the city of Aachen in what is now Germany. Even though growing up on a farm in poverty was fun, I thought growing up poor in the city and devoting my life to the church would be even better. I set off to a monastary in the city where I became a monk that received training in copying pages of text into fresh, blank codices. After spending several years in this monastary, I had completed many copies of text and had become one of the best scribes in the monastary. One day, I had heard that the Emperor Karl der Große was planning to visit the scriptorium to purchase several books. I had also learned that I was chosen to create a copy of “Parzival” that Karl der Große had personally requested. It took three months for me to complete the copy of “Parzival” and soon after, Karl der Große arrived. He briefly visited with the archbishop, collected his books and left behind a hefty donation to the church.


Further down the history time-line, I was a nobleman from 12th century Köln. I had traveled to Mainz to attend the knighting ceremony of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa’s two sons and stay for the celebration afterward. All of the guests invited to the celebration had set-up camp all around Barbarossa’s court, each camp decorated with flags and banners of prices, archbishops, abbots, dukes, margraves, counts palatine, other counts, and noblemen. My camp was relatively small in comparison to the more lavish camps around the site. Most guests of this celebration brought members of their own court who helped carry in and arrange the their lord’s possessions so that the political/social status of the guests would be known to all. After the knighting of Emperor Barbarossa’s two sons, a tournament was held so that all of the knights in attendance (over 20,000) would have a chance to demonstrate their skill with lances, shields and banners. Even Emperor Barbarossa participated, but only challenged knights he knew to be weaker than himself.


During the 15th century, I was an employee of Johann Gutenberg at his first printing press. I was in charge of organizing printed pages of books and made sure that they stayed in proper order. This was a rather boring job especially when the Bible was being run through the press, although the exhibition of the new technology was enough to keep my job interesting. When Gutenberg first unleashed his invention, copies of the Bible were in high demand. Many other printing presses formed for the sole purpose of copying Bibles. The problem was that the Bibles were very expensive, often forcing printing presses to shut down prematurely because of overproduction and over-budgeting.


In the 16th century I was still in the printing industry, although I now worked with Martin Luther. He would give me pages of his new translation of the Bible from Latin to German, and I would arrange movable type in the printing press to begin making copies. Luther not only translated the Bible to a form of German spoken by most people, but he also incorporated different fonts into his bible to put different emphases on words or phrases without changing the meaning. This allowed the scripture to interpret itself so that the reader would not become confused on how to understand certain passages. When enough Bibles were completed, I traveled with Luther around the country visiting parish churches. Luther informed leaders of these churches about his new translation and offered to help them with interpretation issues and gave them tips on what subjects to teach their congregations. Because of Luther’s translation of the Bible, many people now spoke the same form of German all over thus bringing about standard German. That concludes the short examples of what one would see and experience having lived in the times of such revolutionary people and events that have shaped modern Germany and its people into who they are today.


Highlight of the Yiddish Renaissance, S. 256


During the fifteenth century, many Jews left Germany to settle in Northern Italy in prospects of making a better living thus adopting the Italian language and blending their culture with Italian culture. During this time, Italo-Yiddish literature began to emerge, often taking stories that were popular in the past and creating a new version to better suit the readers of the present time. One such story was “Pariz un Vyene (Paris and Vienna)”. The author of this story is unknown, however it is attributed to Elijah Levita. The theme of the story was a subject that the author believed would connect well with the Jewish audience: the choice of a marriage partner. In Jewish tradition parents choose a husband for their daughter, however, the daughter cannot be forced to marry someone they do not want. The author took the opportunity to use the story to criticize the practice of parents choosing their daughter’s spouse. “Pariz un Vyene” is about the daughter of a king who falls in love with the son of a count and the obstacles they encounter when the king refuses to allow Vienna to marry Paris who is lower in social class. This story is considered to be one of the most important works of Old Yiddish literature because of the author’s ability to take a popular European story and adapt it to the Jewish culture. Rather than compose the story in prose the author decided it would be better composed as a long rhymed epic, incorporating the Italian “ottaverime” stanza form–or the rhyme scheme abababcc. The Yiddish version of this story is the only one that utilizes the plot and character descriptions to show the comical side of human characteristics for an overall light-hearted story. Adapting well-known stories to a modern culture can be seen in American books and film today, such as Disney adaptations of fairy tales. I think that it is inevitable that cultures will continue to adapt well-known stories to suit their lifestyle of the time–sometimes improving the story, and sometimes degrading the story.

Ich könnte nicht den Text von “Paris und Vienna” auf dem Internet finden, aber ich habe über das “Bovebukh” gelesen. Es war ein anderes sehr populares jiddisches Buch, das war mit “Paris und Vienna” ähnlich. Es ist über die Tochter eines Königs, die in ein Stalljunge verliebt und der König lehnt die Verbindung zu geschehen ab. Ich denke, daß dieses Thema durch die Zeiten getragen worden ist und es heute popular ist. Viele Bücher und Filme werden noch um dieses Thema geschrieben. Die Details und die kulturellen Hinweise sind die einzigen Themen, die ändern.


A Vision of Flowing Light, S. 126

Mechthild von Magdeburg

The Beguine Mechthild von Magdeburg was one of many people who spent her life devoted to imitating the life of Christ and serving the world. She and other Beguines lived in communal housing supporting each other with posessions they had before entering the beguinage. For jobs, Beguines would implement trade skills, such as spinning and weaving, to become part of the textile industry workforce. Beguines also sometimes worked as nurses and teachers for young girls. Even though Beguines lived a lifestyle promoting humility and servitude, the male-authorities during this time opposed their way of life saying it was unacceptable for women to live that way. Amidst the strong opposition to her lifestyle, Mechthild felt compelled to compose a collection of books that could be shared with the world. “Das fliessende Licht der Gottheit” was the title of the collection she composed. The problem with her books was that she claimed they were written through her by God and circulates the idea that “only in suffering with Christ in his humanity can one be joined with him in his divinity.” She also touches on issues of corruption and hypocrisy in the Church, but never directly challenges the church in her books. Though she never delves into radical claims, the author of this essay believes that “the seeds for [radical claims] lie within her work.” I think that if a person were to compose a book with new ideas and messages about the relationship between man and God and claim God had written the book through them in today’s world would probably receive the same type of criticism from the public as well as the Church…although they probably wouldn’t have to fear being burnt at the stake.

Höfische Feste, S. 76

fred_barbarossa.jpgCourtly festivals were celebrations held by emperors at their imperial courts whose main purpose was to display the power and majesty of an emperor’s court. One such festival at Mainz, hosted by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa during Pentecost, was documented in the Hennegau Chronicle by Gislebert of Mons. Gislebert was a clerk to Count Balduin of Hennegau and documented his lord’s arrival and stay at Barbarossa’s festival. Count Balduin was one of the most prestigious guests and was even allowed to carry the ceremonial sword at the festivities. Count Balduin also participated in the tournament; assisting Barbarossa by holding his lance as the Emperor demonstrated his skill of use of his shield.

After reading the article about courtly festivals, I could relate the activities to modern society. Festivals like this are still held today by those who wish to remind the world of their wealth and/or power (though most are held without a jousting tournament and do not require guests to camp out on the host’s property). We see these activities among world leaders, Hollywood stars and other wealthy people.  I think Barbarossa’s festival was a way of “uniting” his empire while proving and justifying his ability to reign over them.