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Neidhart (von Reuental)

Neidhart (von Reuental) (1190 - 1236)

Neidhart, who owing to a nineteenth-century misapprehension is sometimes still wrongly referred to as “von Reuental” (i.e. “from the Vale of Tears”), was one of the most popular Minnesingers of the late Middle Ages, even though (or more likely “because”) his songs mainly parodied classical Minnesang topics rather than serving them. From this was coined the name that his genre of songs is known by in modern scholarship: Gegensang (Anti-Minnesang). While his contemporary colleagues, the troubadours and other Minnesingers, propagated the ideals of courtly love, Neidhart turned the established order of how to present this topic on its head. He transferred the settings of his poems from courtly realms into an apparently rustic milieu, his central characters not comprising nobles, but peasants—or so it would seem. By using this device of changing the scenery to something so obviously inappropriate, he cunningly opened up a multitude of layers of meaning. Superficially, he turned a serious matter into something hilarious, thus entertaining his audience in an unexpected way, while in his songs village-simpletons try to succeed in the tricky realms of courtly love and, of course, fail. Furthermore, he provides sex and crime through erotic or even obscene incidents, funny arguments between mother and daughter about who gets to go out with the dashing knight, as well as churlish brawls or even outright violent fights between protagonists. Hidden underneath these layers, in the background, however,



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