Nostalgia and the German(ic) Past: The Medieval Poem of Walthare
Mediävistische Perspektiven, Band 17
2024. 82 Seiten, 3 Abbildungen s/w., 10 Farbabbildungen
ISBN 978-3-0340-1766-4
CHF 15.00 / EUR 15.00 
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Has nostalgia existed forever or only since a given date? The word is first attested in 1688, but the experience of homesickness for a specific place, time, or both may be universal among human beings. Today nostalgia receives extensive scrutiny, in mass media as well as in ­scholarship. Longing for the Middle Ages has been regarded as sometimes dangerous for political reasons. Suspicion has grown about nostalgia for and in the medieval period: consider the furor over the term Anglo-Saxon. The Medieval Latin Poem of Walthare, better known as the Waltharius, cries out for a share of attention.
This essay situates the Poem of Walthare within nostalgia studies. The examination reviews the many different types of nostalgia that have been identified lately. Alongside private and collective, it touches on the role of consumerism and the politicization of ­nostalgia, especially by (neo-) Nazis, white supremacists, and their opponents. At the same time, the study delves into the earlier medical view of nostalgia: this syndrome was diagnosed among Swiss ­mercenaries in the late seventeenth century.
The recent debates have interesting consequences for the short ­medieval epic, which is rooted in the events of a distant Germanic past, which produced legends of exiles who yearned for their homes and peoples. Yet the Latin of the Middle Ages does not fit naturally within modern national languages and literatures. Since the late eighteenth century, the poem has been coordinated with early medieval German culture. Jacob Grimm, who played a foundational role in this research, paid heed to the longing for a German homeland that he felt. Joseph Victor von Scheffel had his own nostalgia for long-ago Saint Gall.

Jan M. Ziolkowski is a medievalist and Medieval Latinist at Harvard University since 1981, where he directed Dumbarton Oaks (2007–2020). His books cover the gamut from editions and translation through literary history. In 2022 he published an edition and translation, a commentary, and two anthologies.

Die Schriftenreihe repräsentiert die Breite der mediävistischen Forschung an der Universität Zürich und darüber hinaus.