Tuesday, 9 May 2017

On the phenomenon of "Minne" in Hartmann von Aue's "Erec" (c.1191-2)

Hartmann von Aue's early Arthurian romance Erec, thought to have been composed between 1191 and 1192, reflects in multiple ways the dichotomy of effects 'Minne' (the Middle High German word for courtly love) can have upon couples - effects both beneficial and deleterious. Ultimately Hartmann's work positions Minne as an opposing extreme to chivalry, portraying both essential aspects of courtly life as necessary and yet to some extent potentially destabilising.

The primary sphere upon which this dichotomy acts is the couple at the narrative centre, namely Erec and Enite. Upon their introduction we have a clear sense of these two figures as protagonist roles, not least because of the extent of description and hyperbole Hartmann invests in convincing us of their worth. In a number of respects they seem a perfect match; by the story's end the reader is convinced of the worth and value of their relationship. But such a point has only been reached through 'übele zite' - suffering and anguish which Enite, in particular, has had to undergo.