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Wigamur

TIn 2015, I had the privelege of publishing with Boydell & Brewer the first-ever English-language translation of the 13th-century German Arthurian romance Wigamur with a facing-page medieval German edition of its principle manuscript, MS W. With that edition, I aimed to give a fairly faithhful, conservative representation of this rather late manuscript from the end of the fifteenth century. And with the translation, I tried to give an accurate and precise rendition in modern, standard English of the rather plainly written medieval German text. Because of the rather convoluted transmission state of the text in its manuscripts, this was a very challenging romance both to translate and to edit, but a project that was thoroughly enjoyable for me.

The principle manuscript contains a series of quite beautiful images, one of which the publisher placed on the very nice cover they prepared for this volume (left) and which shows, from right to left, the hero, Wigamur, with his sidekick eagle, his father-in-law, King Atroglas, and his beloved, Dulciflur.

Among the approximately 15 Arthurian romances making up the MIddle High German tradition of Arthurian romance, Wigamur is perhaps the least studied, a fact owing in part to the absence, until recently, of user-friendly editions allowing access to Wigamur's quite hard-to-read manuscript tradition. Hopefully, the recent editions of Wigamur by Nathanael Busch into normalizedlized Middle High German from 2009 and this, my more diplomatic edition of Wigamur from 2015, will generate interest in this underappreciated romance.  Indeed, while previous generations of scholars seemed unable to look past the convoluted transmission of the text and to see Wigamur's merit, there is actually much to admire in the romance. Thus, we can, for example, celebrate the author: 1)  for his skillful weaving of three core thematic programs--property, reht, and blood over merit--in a thorough and coherent fashion throughout his narrative; 2) for his creation of a large number of multidimensional characters with both good and bad qualities (a relative rarity in Arthurian romance, where characters tend to be rather flat and either mostly good or mostly bad); and 3) for the unique, deliberative turn of his narrative style--i.e. the presentation to the audience of multiple sides of an issue, a strategy which seems intended to force the audience to weigh all sides of an issue. (I discuss such artistic merits in Wigamur at length and iinclude many insights about Wigamur in the introduction to the volume and also in the notes following the text. While introductions and notes are items that readers sometimes skip, my secret tip to anyone intested in this romance is to read the introduction and notes, where I've included, what I hope, is much interesting and much new information.)

To the scholar and reader of medieval Arthurian romance, Wigamur is probably most significant as a prime example of the so-called "Fair Unknown" romance. With, for example, the medieval German Lanzelet and Wigalois romances, the Old French Le Bel Inconnu, the medieval Latin The Rise of Gawain, Nephew of Arthur, the Yiddish Widwilt, and the MIddle Dutch Moriaen, Wigamur shares in the loosely connected, pan-European Arthurian storytelling tradition of the "Fair Unknown" romance. Those romances pose a similar set of questions; namely, what does a young nobleman need to know, what does he need to experience, and what qualities does he need to possess in order to become an honorable knight and military and political leader? In its thorough treatment of all these questions, Wigamur emerges as perhaps the most representative and most thoroughly realized example of the "Fair Unknown"romance in the entire medieval European Arthurian tradition.

In my personal, admittedly subjective, opinion, and after having read almost all the texts in the "Fair Unknown" tradition in preparation for this volume, Wigamur and the MIddle Dutch Knight with the Sleeve are perhaps the richest and most interesting examples of the European "Fair Unknown" tradition and offer scholars potentially the most rewarding possibilties for future, comparative research into the European "Fair Unknown" romance. Thus, if you are working on a Fair Unknown romance in one of the other national traditions, consider reading the Knight with the Sleeve and Wigamur. Not only are they good reads in and of themselves but, also, you likely will come away with many new insights into the Fair Unkown romance[s] you are working on.

While my personal philosophy on translations/editions is that the translator/editor should not try to answer too many critical questions about the translated text either in the translation volume itself or in critcal scholarship published elsewhere, and that the translation/edition should instead serve to spur on critical scholarship among other researchers, I have recently violated my own rule with Wigamur: I have an essay forthcoming in late 2019 or early 2019 on how the romance's anonymous author leaves the most imporant questions that he poses in the text open-ended for his audience to decide. (This aspect is what I think is the most intesting aspect of all for Wigamur.)

 

Here are the reviews I've seen to date for Wigamur:

Jeep Choice.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [341.4 KB]
Polhill, Marian SMGS News and Reviews.pd[...]
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Bildhauer Times Literary Supplement.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [196.4 KB]
Classen Mediaevistik.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [191.6 KB]