March 16 2016: Frank Willaert – Lotharingia as a Challenge to National Philologies

Lotharingia as a Challenge to National Philologies

Frank Willaert, University of Antwerp

Wednesday, March 16, 12pm in Dwinelle 282

The kingdom of Lotharingia, which took its name from Lotharius II, lasted only for a very short time (855-869). After its annexation by king Henry the Fowler in 925, it became the fifth duchy of East-Francia, only to disintegrate further into a motley collection of duchies, counties and prince-bishoprics. As an idea however , ‘Lotharingia’ continued to exert an attraction on some rulers for several centuries, inspiring e.g. the policies of the dukes of Brabant and even the royal dreams of the ambitious Burgundian duke Charles the Bold (reigned 1467-77).

Today, what once was Lotharingia is split up over five independent countries (The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany and France) and three languages (Dutch, German, French). The medieval literary history of these territories is accordingly dealt with in different philologies, in different literary histories, and never as that of an integrated territory. But what if the history of Lotharingia had taken another course, and if it had ended as a winner, and not as a loser of history?

In my presentation, I shall contend that it does make sense to study the greater part of medieval literature in these territories as an integrated whole, in spite of their linguistic and political heterogeneity. Though I think it is possible to substantiate this position with a discussion of epical and mystical literature, I shall for brevity’s sake limit myself to the history of courtly love song. I shall contend that this apparently “marginal” literary province played a decisive role in the evolution of French as well as of German lyrical poetry.

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