Why We Need a Medieval Narratology: A Manifesto


  • Eva von Contzen


In the wake of the growing interest in diachronic approaches and the historicizing of narratology, a medieval narratology is called for which systematically scrutinizes medieval forms and functions of narration. In the first part of the article, the problems of applying classical narratological theories to medieval literature are sketched, as well as the reasons for the relative invisibility of the narratological studies already conducted by medievalists. In the second part, the main parameters of a medieval narratology are outlined by means of selected sample analyses across a range of genres. A medieval narratology, it is argued, requires necessary shifts and modifications of existing theories, but also an open dialogue between the disciplines. Both narratologists and medievalists can profit from such an endeavor, which does not reject classical and post-classical theories. Rather, it is based on an informed understanding of the historical grounding of narrative forms and their place in the history of literature. The essay rounds off with a proposal of “Ten Theses for a Medieval Narratology”.