In contrast to the vernacular literary traditions of France, Italy and England, comic tales in verse flourished in late medieval Germany, providing bawdy entertainment for larger audiences of public recitals as well as for smaller numbers of individual readers. In a sustained close analysis Sebastian Coxon explores both the narrative design and fundamental thematic preoccupations of these short texts. A distinctively performative tradition of pre-modern narrative literature emerges which invited its recipients to think, learn and above all to laugh in a number of different ways.
‘This is the first sustained study of the German branch of the genre of comic verse narratives (maeren) which was hugely popular across Europe in the late Middle Ages... an impressively learned study, based on a huge corpus of primary and secondary texts. A wealth of information on laughter, humour and the reception of late-medieval literature is waiting to be unearthed here.’ — unsigned, Forum for Modern Language Studies 46.1, January 2010, 110
‘An excellent study that undoubtedly advances our understanding of laughter and its functions in the past.’ — Sophia Menache, The Medieval Review September 2009
‘Copious footnotes and an extensive bibliography document the author's mastery of the critical literature, and summaries of the German-language scholarship, as well as English translations of textual passages, make this study easily accessible to those with no knowledge of German. Coxon's volume offers a detailed and subtle analysis of a limited corpus that provides a significant context for future scholarship on the culture of laughter in the middle ages.’ — Thomas Kerth, Monatshefte 101.3, 2009, 410-12
‘This is the fullest study of the German comic maere to have appeared in a long time, and is based on an impressively wide corpus of sources as well as background reading. There is a wealth of intriguing new information here that deserves further exploration - how the Church’s suspicion of laughter (Jesus never laughed!) was negotiated in these stories; that face and hair were the most frequently attacked body parts here; or that the best jokes were on millers and charcoal-burners.’ — Bettina Bildhauer, Modern Language Review 105.2, 2010, 583-84 (full text online)
‘Si accennna poi al rapporto fra riso e letteratura, sottolineando il fatto che la letteratura medievale è, nel suo complesso, una fonte di enorme importanza per la storia del riso.’ — unsigned notice, Medioevo Latino XXXI, 2010, 535-36
‘As the first comprehensive study of late-medieval German comic tales, this study is a useful resource for medievalists... Scholars will appreciate the comprehensive references to key studies by other Germanists, and less adept readers of Middle High German will value the excellent translations.’ — Lisa Perfetti, Speculum 85.3, 2010, 658-60
‘Gerade dort, wo er tatsächlich eng entlang seiner Referenztexte argumentiert, gelingen Coxon zahlreiche aufschlussreiche Beobachtungen. An diese Ergebnisse Coxons werden bei der Erforschung deutschsprachiger Versnovellen des Spätmittelalters wohl noch viele Untersuchungen (aus hoffentlich diversen Fachdisziplinen) anschließen können.’ — Matthias Kirchhoff, Literaturwissenschaftliches Jahrbuch 2010, 422-24
Coxon, Sebastian, Laughter and Narrative in the Later Middle Ages: German Comic Tales c. 1350-1525 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2008)
First footnote reference:35 Sebastian Coxon, Laughter and Narrative in the Later Middle Ages: German Comic Tales c. 1350-1525 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2008), p. 21.