Rules for the Endgame
The World of the Nibelungenlied
The source of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, the Nibelungenlied occupies a unique place in medieval literary history. Commonly seen as the paradigmatic example of national epic, its interpretation has long been colored by the later evolution of German cultural tradition. In Rules for the Endgame Jan-Dirk Müller argues that the literary reception of the Nibelungenlied was problematic long before the modern era.
Here Müller uncovers the complex and heterogeneous cultural context from which the poem emerged. He challenges scholarly readers to move beyond modern methods of criticism and analysis—specifically, in their expectations of coherence, agreement, and integrity—and to look for other possibilities and methods of interpretation. He recommends a reading that elucidates meaningful linkages, isotopes, and structural recurrences on the epic's different levels and thematic subjects.
This groundbreaking interpretation offers a new approach to the reading of medieval literature and revolutionizes the study of the Nibelungenlied itself—providing a richer understanding of the work's significance both in its era and for our own.
About the Authors
Jan-Dirk Müller is a professor at the Institute for German Philology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich. William T. Whobrey is a lecturer in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Yale University and an assistant dean of Yale College.
One of the best contributions to medieval scholarship in the past two or three decades, this book is a brilliant example of what literary history, at its very best, is capable of being. Müller is one of the most intellectually productive living medievalists. The undogmatic complexity of his thinking is always surprising and inspiring; the profundity of his scholarship is simply beyond belief. This volume represents both a monumental work, a future classic, and a breakthrough intellectual achievement.
Müller's argumentation is thorough and his endnotes and bibliography are expansive; Whobrey's translation flows.
It is an exceptional treat that Johns Hopkins University Press has translated from German into English one of the most important, ground-breaking books on medieval studies of the past decade... Mueller offers a new reading of one of the major canonical texts of German medieval literature but also pioneers an innovative approach to medieval texts in general.
Jan-Dirk Müller's ground-breaking and controversial study of the Nibelungenlied... is an important book for medieval studies, and it is greatly to be welcomed that it is now available in an American translation and thus accessible to a larger audience.
This is literary scholarship of a very high order indeed, and Müller's methods of reading a text can, I believe, be very illuminating to scholars in other areas beyond Germanic languages and literatures.
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