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German literature

Old and Middle High German: From Early to Medieval Literature

Heroic legends, among them the Lay of Hildebrand, date from the turn of the 8th cent. to the 9th cent. and are the earliest known works in Old High German (see German language). The Waltherius (10th cent.) is written in Latin. Low German and Saxon dialects are also used in these epics. Writings of the 9th to the 11th cent., largely inspired by the church, include the works of the monks Rabanus Maurus Magnentius, Otfried, and Notker Labeo.

The succeeding period of Middle High German (12th–14th cent.) is characterized by chivalric poetry, such as the songs and lyrics of the minnesingers on courtly love and other subjects. Courtly epics, such as Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan and Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (see Parsifal), were often based on French troubadour and trouvère sources (see troubadours; trouvères), while epics like the Nibelungenlied (see under Nibelungen) and Gudrun use Germanic traditions. A gradual decline of chivalric poetry is evident in the works of Ulrich von Lichtenstein, and the rise of the urban literary traditions is seen in such epics as Wernher der Gartenaere's Meier Helmbrecht (c.1250).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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