The female lament: agency and gender in medieval German literature Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
  • Henry, April Lynn
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • This dissertation examines the conventional motif of the female lament in Hartmann von Aue's Erec and the anonymous works Nibelungenlied and Nibelungenklage. I explain how these authors use the motif as a space within which fictitious female figures can gain or have access to agency. This dissertation contributes to the larger context of literary and gender studies by demonstrating that literature prescribes behavior and it fulfills a pedagogical function. In the introduction, I set up the theoretical framework for my three chapters. In chapter two, I argue that Hartmann von Aue revises the classical genre of the lament that dates back to antiquity to create a space for a female voice. Chapter three shows that the Nibelungenlied responds to Hartmann’s new gender construct by presenting Kriemhild, a grieving widow, who oversteps gender boundaries by instrumentalizing her grief and using it to legitimize her revenge. In this chapter, I compare the three main thirteenth-century manuscripts to illustrate that the representation of Kriemhild's grief is a problematic aspect of the story. My fourth chapter concentrates on the Nibelungenklage, a companion text to the Nibelungenlied. Here I explain that the B and C redactions of the Nibelungenklage respond to the Nibelungenlied by recasting Kriemhild as a victim acting out of loyalty to her dead husband and by recontextualizing the individual lamentations as either productive or unproductive, but not destructive for society.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Starkey, Kathryn
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

This work has no parents.