The Transmission of Medieval French Literature to German-Speaking Regions

Keith Busby 
University of Wisconsin–Madison

This paper will consider the ways in which medieval French literature reached German-speaking areas east of the Rhine. I will consider the porous nature of physical and linguistic boundaries and borders before looking at some patterns of transmission and distribution. The reception of Chrétien de Troyes, for example, seems non-existent in Iberia, while in Italy, there is good evidence for knowledge of his romances, but without adaptation. In the Nordic countries, Chrétien, like the Tristan romances, is adapted early. Yet there is no evidence of the circulation of French manuscripts in Scandinavia or in regions where Hartmann von Aue, Wolfram von Eschenbach, or Gottfried von Straßburg produced their extraordinary adaptations. Did manuscripts travel in the baggage of soldiers, diplomats, monks, or ecclesiastics? Or did medieval German authors travel in search of models to emulate and adapt for their own audiences? And where and how did Hartmann, Wolfram, and Gottfried learn their French? Intermarriage between royal and aristocratic houses may also have played a part in the increasing dominance of the French literary tradition in non-Francophone regions of Europe. German-speaking regions seem to have been playing “catch-up” for several decades after the first classic phase of medieval French romance.