Frauenlob's Song of Songs: A Medieval German Poet and His Masterpiece

Frauenlob's Song of Songs: A Medieval German Poet and His Masterpiece

by Barbara Newman
     
 

“Frauenlob” was the stage name of Heinrich von Meissen (c. 1260–1318), a medieval German poet-minstrel. A famous and controversial figure in his day, Frauenlob (meaning “praise of ladies”) exercised a strong influence on German literature into the eighteenth century. This book introduces the poet to English-speaking readers with a

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Overview

“Frauenlob” was the stage name of Heinrich von Meissen (c. 1260–1318), a medieval German poet-minstrel. A famous and controversial figure in his day, Frauenlob (meaning “praise of ladies”) exercised a strong influence on German literature into the eighteenth century. This book introduces the poet to English-speaking readers with a fresh poetic translation of his masterpiece, the Marienleich—a virtuosic poem of more than 500 lines in praise of the Virgin Mary.

Barbara Newman, known for her pathbreaking translation of Hildegard of Bingen’s Symphonia, brilliantly captures the fervent eroticism of Frauenlob’s language. More than the mother of Jesus, the Lady of Frauenlob’s text is a celestial goddess, the eternal partner of the Trinity. Like Christ himself she is explicitly said to have two natures, human and divine. Frauenlob lets the Lady speak for herself in an unusual first-person text of self-revelation, crafted from the Song of Songs, the Biblical wisdom books, the Apocalypse, and a wide array of secular materials ranging from courtly romance to Aristotelian philosophy.

Included with the book is a CD recording of the Marienleich by the noted ensemble Sequentia, directed by Benjamin Bagby and the late Barbara Thornton. The surviving music is the composer’s own, reconstructed from fragmentary manuscript sources. Accompanying Newman’s translation is a facing-page edition of the German text, detailed commentary, and a critical study presenting the most thorough discussion to date of Frauenlob’s oeuvre, social context, philosophical ideas, sources, language, music, and influence. Rescuing a long forgotten medieval masterpiece, Frauenlob’s Song of Songs will fascinate students and scholars of the Middle Ages as well as scholars, performers, and connoisseurs of early music.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The need for a readable Frauenlob translation has existed for a long time. Now, consistent with her reputation as one of the preeminent scholars in the field of medieval studies, Barbara Newman has produced that translation, capturing the vibrant spirit of the Marienleich in clear, lively English.”

—Anne Winston-Allen, Southern Illinois University

“This is a book intended for all those mature enough in their appreciation of beauty to stomach the strong wine of two of the Virgin Mary’s most sophisticated devotees. Heinrich von Meißen’s Marienleich offers the reader a scintillating yet mysterious vision of Mary as the goddess of the heavenly Jerusalem; Newman’s translucent commentary on, introduction to, and translation of the poem unlocks its mysteries as only a consummate lover of theology, history, and poetry can. The combination is a treat to be savored, rolled over on the tongue until its complexity gives forth its astonishing sweetness.”

—Rachel Fulton, author of From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200

Frauenlob’s Song of Songs is a gorgeous publication, clearly and forcefully written, stunningly laid out and carefully edited. . . . It comes with all the scholarly trappings, but also with a CD of a beautiful, hour-long recording of Heinrich’s composition, essential to appreciating this song.”

—Bettina Bildhauer, Times Literary Supplement

“Scholars from many disciplines will surely find this delightfully well-written book stimulating. I believe that it will be accessible and interesting to students as well. The outstanding scholarly apparatus (commentary, glossary, indices, full bibliography) intensifies the book’s usefulness as a textbook by simplifying ease of understanding and access to learned and biblical allusions.”

—Ann Marie Rasmussen, Journal of English and Germanic Philology

“Newman’s own enthusiasm for her subject comes through in every line of this stimulating book which, I believe, is of interest not only to scholars of medieval literature and theology but also makes accessible to students a work of religious poetry which joins together with incomparable vitality emotion and reason, poetry, and theology.”

—Kerstin Pfeiffer, Literature and Theology

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780271029252
Publisher:
Penn State University Press
Publication date:
01/28/2007
Pages:
264
Sales rank:
1,011,423
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.72(d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Newman is Professor of English, Religion, and Classics at Northwestern University. She is the author, most recently, of God and the Goddesses: Vision, Poetry, and Belief in the Middle Ages (2002). She also published a critical edition and translation of Hildegard of Bingen's Symphonia (1988; rev. ed. 1998).

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