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Conference Proceeding

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Sometime around the year 1200 a yet to be identified poet wrote what is often referred to as, “…the most impressive single work of medieval German literature and [it] stands in the small company of great national epics, with the Iliad, the Aeneid, the Roland, and the Cid.” The author of the aforementioned quote, Frank Ryder, goes on to say, “…in the pure art of story, in the creation of epic figures, in vigor and directness of characterization, in monumental scope and power—[this] work can bear comparison with any of the great epics. Like them, it is a true work of world literature, faithful to its time but not bound by it, comprehensible and of significance to an audience centuries removed.” Naturally many scholars over time have attempted to identify the author of such an outstanding piece of literature and it is understandable that such a significant piece of literature deserves to have an identifiable author. Or does it? The scope of study on this subject has spanned centuries and has filled countless volumes and kept hundreds of scholars well occupied for most of their academic careers. The question which occupies many modern scholars is naturally the question of gender—was it written by a man, as was assumed by nineteenth and many twentieth century researchers, or is it possible that a woman was able to produce such an epic work at a time when female poets and writers were a rare commodity indeed? In the following paper I will explore three very different theories of authorship ranging from Werner Wunderlich‟s assertion that the author of the Nibelungenlied does not need to be named because the epic exists as a part of our human history and this human history needs no author, to Edward Haymes exploration of the “Werkstatt” theory of authorship, to the angle that interests me most, which is the theory that a female author is responsible for producing this great work of literature.


Presented at Graduate English Association New Voices Conference 2007, pp. 1-16.