List of German Arthurian romances that need up-to-date translation-editions
On this page, I’ve made a short list of medieval German (and Germanic) Arthurian romances—and what one might term “nearly” Arthurian romances (i.e. Matter of Britain, but not strictly Arthurian)—for which I believe there is need for new, competent, up-to-date facing-page-edition-with-modern-English-translation volumes. Admittedly, I am sure to have missed a few things here; for instance, I might have forgotten a romance, or a scholar might already be working on a volume that I am unaware of; or a competent translation might exist tucked away in a little-known Ph.D. dissertation. (Last update: May 2019)
THE GERMAN ARTHURIAN ROMANCES:
The 3 romances by “der Pleier”: J.W. Thomas translated these into English several decades ago, albeit without an accompanying edition. While the translations are adequate for an undergraduate classroom, they tend to paraphrase rather than to precisely translate and are therefore not up to current scholarly standards.
1. Garel (a volume is in preparation and should appear in 2020)
2. Meleranz, about 12,000 verses. Although a volume was in the initial planning phases, the individual who wished to do it recently decided not to.
3. Tandareis, about 18, 000 verses
Wigalois, by Wirnt of Grafenberg, about 10,000 verses. This has probably been the most important medieval romance for scholars at German-speaking universities in the last decade, having experienced something of a renaissance in its scholarship during that time. J.W. Thomas translated the Crown into English 4 decades ago, albeit without an accompanying edition. As with Thomas’s other translations, his Wigalois translation is fine for the undergraduate classroom but too imprecise for more advanced students and for scholarship. Additionally, the standard critical edition from the 1920s is woefully outdated and replete with error. I am currently working on a new translation with a facing-page, fairly conservative edition of the Leiden Wigalois manuscript B. While I have much work left to do, I am hoping to get the lion’s share of that work completed when I am on sabbatical in summer and fall 2020 and, if everything works out, to see the volume published in 2021.
Lohengrin, anonymous, about 10,000 verses (in so-called “Wartburg” strophes). While a very competent edition of this romance exists (by Thomas Cramer from the 1970s), the romance has never been translated, to my knowledge, into a modern language. Such a translation is a necessity for scholarship on this text, since the original medieval German is quite difficult and therefore out of reach at present for all but seasoned Middle High German scholars. A scholar has expressed interest in producing a new Lohengrin volume, so hopefully we will have such a volume within the next several years.
The Crown [Die Krone/Crone], Heinrich von dem Türlin, about 30,000 verses: J.W Thomas translated the Crown into English 3 decades ago, albeit without an accompanying edition. While the translation is fine for the undergraduate classroom, it is inadequate for more scholarly purposes; thus, it tends to paraphrase rather than to precisely translate, and it does not make clear, for instance, which of the main Crown manuscripts it is translating from. Among all German romances in need of a new translation-with-edition, this romance—because of its literary quality and its place in the European Arthurian tradition—is perhaps the most important. Given its great length, it might be a good project for a team of 2 people.
Der jüngere Titurel [Later Titurel] by Albrecht, about 30,000 verses. Although a competent edition exists, to the best of my knowledge this fairly important, but lengthy and linguistically difficult romance from about 1270 has never been translated into a modern language and, therefore, it remains less known than it otherwise might be. [As with most non-canonical Middle High German romances, serious, innovative scholarship really only takes off once there is a modern translation that allows PhD students with only Begging Middle HIgh German skills, for instance, to begin disseratation reseach on it.] Although a volume with a selective translation and facing-page edition of about 6,000 of it most important verses has been in the planning for several years, that volume’s future is at present uncertain.
Ulrich Fuetrer’s arthuriad, Das Buch der Abenteuer. In the last quarter of the 15th-century, Ulrich Fuetrer reworked many of the best-known medieval German Arthurian romances into his massive Bavarian-language arthuriad cylcle, Das Buch der Abenteuer [The Book of Adventure], and in which he also included several new, independent, and otherwise unknown romances. Among the classical romances he reworked—generally by condensing them by about 60% and making plot elements more logical—are, for instance, Iwein, Wolfram’s Parzival and Titurel, Wigalois, Lohengrin, Meleranz, and the Prose Lancelot, among others. Thus the anthology is important for at least 3 reasons: 1) as an example of a true Arthurian cycle, most analogous to the Middle Dutch Lancelot Compilation and Malory’s Morte; 2) for its artistry in editing and reworking of known texts for a late-medeival audience; and 3) for its inclusion of several new, and still mostly unknown (outside of expert circles), romances to the German and, indeed, medieval European corpus of Arthurian romance. While competent—but not outstanding—editions of all the texts in the cycle have existed for 2 decades, none of the individual romances has ever, to the best of my knowledge, been translated into a modern language. Presumably because the romances are linguistically quite difficult, there is not much scholarship on them or general knowledge about them outside the German-speaking few experts who have worked on them. --- Edition-translations of especially the more interesting romances from the anthology would be very useful and attractive for scholarship. These might include, in the beginning, Fuetrer’s Iwein and Wigalois texts along with his better known independent romances, especially Flordimar but also Poytislier, and Persibein. Because I have a personal interest in the European-wide Yvain tradition, I am currently translating and editing Fuetrer’s Iban, which—along with Pierre Sala’s early-sixteenth-century French-language Yvain, a work that itself could really use an English translation—is arguably the least studied Yvain variant in the European Yvain corpus.
The Arthurian Fragments: There are many fragments of otherwise unattested romances—and of varying lengths and varying degrees of importance—in the medieval German Arthurian tradition. Almost all of them have never been translated. Some of these could be put together into an attractive volume or two.
The Rapolsteiner Parsifal: I personally know less about this romance that I should, but to the best of my knowledge, none of this circa-1300 reformulation of the Perceval/Parzival material and its Old French continuations has ever been translated into a modern language. I am not sure that the interest in this lengthy work would be great enough to warrant a full-length translation of it.
Prose Lancelot: Nearly the entire Old French Lancelot-Grail cycle exists in contemporaneous medieval Middle High German translation(s). The medieval German Prose Lancelot is, however, so close to the Old French original(s)—for which excellent English-language translations (orginally published with Garland) already exist—that a translation of the Middle High German Prose Lancelot just isn’t necessary.
“NEARLY” ARTHURIAN ROMANCES, I.E. MATTER OF BRITAIN, BUT NOT STRICTLY ARTHURIAN
Tristan by Gottfried of Straßburg: To be really useful to scholars, my personal opinion is that a new Tristan volume should be not just a prose translation but a facing-page, line-by-line edition with translation. Hatto’s now several-decades-old stand-alone Tristan translation is still serviceable, with its iprimary weak point being that it does not include a facing-page translation Any new Tristan without an edition will likely not supplant Hatto’s translation with scholars, since Hatto’s translation is—for better, but mostly for worse—so accepted and, as a paperback, so affordable. At present, there is a Tristan translation volume in progress.
Eilhart von Oberg’s earlier Tristan (and 2 continuations of Gottfried’s Tristan): While Eilhart’s Tristan was translated in English several decades ago, albeit without a facing-page edition, a more up-to-date, precise translation is desirable.
Other Germanic Arthurian Texts:
Vidvilt (Yiddish): This Yiddish romance was recently translated by Jerold Frakes as part of an anthology of medieval Yiddish texts. Although the translation is great for the classroom and a for gaining a basic acquainance with the truly intersesting Artgurian work, Frake's translation does not contain a parallel edition (which means, among other things, that more advanced scholars cannot be certain which portions of the rather convoluted manuscript tradition he is translating). Therefore, a more expansive, more annotated translation with edition would probaly be very welcome by scholars. --- There is a serious critical edition in preparation in Germany of Vidvilt. When it appears, and if rights could be obtained to reproduce it, it would probably make the ideal parallel-edition text for a new English translation. – There aren’t too many competent scholars of medieval Yiddish and Arthurian romance at present in Anglo-American academia, but it should be possible to find one (or perhaps a pair of people with complementary skills) to undertake such a volume).
Duke Frederick (Old Swedish, aka. East Norse): This Old Swedish kind-of-sort-of, nominally Arthurian romance is part of the 3-text Eufemiavisor [Songs of Eufemia] corpus, of which the most importance text—the Herr Ivan [Sir Yvain]—already exists in a 1999 Boydell and Brewer volume with an excellent translation by Swedish linguist Henrik Williams. A fairly recent English translation of Duke Frederick is tucked away in the 1999 Harvard University PhD thesis of William Layher, who has unfortunately left the field. Additionally, Henrik Williams has recently (2018 I think) published a modern Swedish translation of the text (with, I believe, a facing-page edition), which I have not seen yet, but which I imagine could serve as the basis for an English translation There is also a recent edition of the text by a German scholar from the last decade (which however might be too convoluted and non-user-friendly for reprodction in a paralle edition-translation volume). An edition-translation volume of this romance would be welcome. (It might also be paired with the 3rd of the Eufemiavisor, the Old Swedish version of Flor and Blancheflor, although that romance is not an Arthurian romance.) I work on this corpus, but my Old Swedish is unfortunately not good enough to undertake this work myself. --- There has been a mini-renaissance in the last decade among scholars who work on the Eufemiavisor, but these scholars come from many countries and write in many different scholarly languages. Only a couple of us can read all those languages, making material in English (i.e. the only language that we all understand) unusually valuable.