Reading the Excursus on Women as a Model of “modern” Temporality in Gottfried's Tristan

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Abstract

This paper's central argument is that the temporal structure of the Frauen-excursus in Tristan is compatible with an understanding of history that was emerging around 1200. The structure of the excursus is essentially dialectical, and as such has broader implications for an understanding of Gottfried's views of human relationships as well as of the specific historical moment in which he composed the work.

Gottfried's presentation of a linear-sequential view of time relies on Judeo-Christian typology, as various analyses of the excursus have established. However, this linear-sequential view is consistently undermined by a questioning and relativizing of that typological version of the past. This questioning occurs within a narrative structure derived from Latin rhetoric, the partes oratoriae. Gottfried's dependence on and experimentation with this structure, and the excursus's self-reflexive content, reveal history as processual and prefigure later concepts of historical time. The love relationships that occur within this processual time are, in Gottfried's presentation, characterized by the lovers' ability to learn from the exempla that represent the past and to use the reconstructed past in the service of their own earthy futures.

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