(B9) The Agency of the Author and the Staging of Authorship in the High Middle Ages and Renaissance

For the pre-modern period, there exists only sporadic research on the author as a public agency in maintaining, stabilizing, and expressing or in challenging and transforming the political and religious order. Comparative studies of the forms, conditions, and consequences of such authorship are a desideratum whose fulfillment can lead to fundamental insights into the functions of literary production in pre-modern societies and is thus also suitable for comparison with modern and non-European cultures (see Thomas Bauer on panegyric poetry in Arabian countries and Martina Wagner-Egelhaaf on the modern).

Already in the Carolingian period the poet appeared before the public with literary productions containing political and religious programmes. His function would become more differentiated in the controversial and public discourse on religion and politics in the twelfth century when – in panegyric, satire, and literary sketches – he takes a position and meddles in current questions of imperium and ecclesia. Such authors respectively choose their genre with the specific mode of speech traditionally reserved for it (epic, lyric, vision in verse and prose, didactic poem, letter, dialogue, drama) in order to adapt it to their intentions and to effectively stage their vote in a reflected and specifically profiled authorship. An interesting corpus of texts of this kind is, for example, Hildegard of Bingen’s visionary correspondence (around 300 letters) with numerous religious and worldly persons of high standing of her time; the critical edition of this correspondence is just finished, but an analysis is yet to be done. Upon request Hildegard gives her visionary advice to popes, the emperor, kings and queens, prelates and masters, priests, monks, and nuns as well as members of the laity of various social positions from northern Denmark to Italy, and from western France to Prague. After being approved as an author at the Synod of Trier in 1147–48, in the course of a few years she thus became a respected official agency – as a woman! The specific achievements of the agency of public authorship shall be described in comparative studies with various other literary forms and models of authorships for the first time.

In a second step corresponding forms of humanistic authorship for the ruler from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (lyric, epic, novels, hybrid forms such as homage plays, among others) shall be analyzed in comparison. The flourishing theatre in the Confessional Age proves to be both the most significant literary and multi-media institution for the formation of public opinion: an early “mass media” for the – literally – staged discussion of societal values concerning politics and religion, about whose intentions many prologues also provide quite definitive information.