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Spaces of fear in novels of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period: Reflecting knowledge, re-evaluating, re-conceptualizing (203)

Principal Investigator:

How, with which semantics, in which context and with which functions do representations of fear express themselves, specifically in those contexts where literary norms  oppose the thematization of fear?

Starting with the dominant, fearless heroes of fiction from the Middle Ages, the project seeks to determine the extent to which representations of fear, countering those stereotypes, prove to be examples of the durable and subtle principle of character steering that on one hand grasps and re-encodes an era’s anthropologically characterized scenarios of fear, and on the other hand – not at all according to any stringent procedure, but nevertheless increasingly – becomes a medium for the expression of feelings of fear, for permission to feel fear, for coping with fear in the implicit reception instructions for the listener / reader.

The prerequisites and narrative components of the semantics of fear and its presentation in the literary historical process will be traced through selected German-language literature from the 12th to 16th century, using tools of modern cognitive theories of emotion; investigations into historical semantics; analysis of functions on the level of character steering; and a cultural science-oriented reflection, in tackling the theological-philosophical theory of affects of the Middle Ages.

Within the Cluster, the goal is to use the literary paradigm to gain insight into the historical relation between linguistic modification and emotional transformation and therefore to reveal the extent to which cultural emotional patterns – even those that appear to be rigid – may be taken apart and "superseded" through linguistic literary modifications.


Gerok-Reiter, A. (2011, Im Druck). Tradition und Transformation. Polyphonische Wissensfigurationen in der Historia von D. Johann Fausten. KulturPoetik 11 (1).

Gerok-Reiter, A. (2010). angest/vorhte – literarisch. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Emotionsforschung zwischen Text und Kontext. Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaft 2. Themenheft "Emotionen"

Gerok-Reiter, A. (2009). Kindheitstopoi in Gottfrieds "Tristan". Anspielungen, Überlagerungen, Funktionalisierungen. Elm, D., Fitzon, T., Liess, K., Linden, S. (Eds.). Alterstopoi. Das Wissen von den Lebensaltern in Literatur, Kunst und Theologie. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter.

Gerok-Reiter, A. (2008). Die Rationalität der Angst: Neuansätze im 'Fortunatus'. Haubrichs,W., Lutz, E.C., Ridder, K. (Eds.). Reflexion und Inszenierung von Rationalität in der mittelalterlichen Literatur. 273-298. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag. Blaubeurer Kolloquium 2006 (Wolfram-Studien XX)