Naming and Renaming Texts: Rubrics in Middle High German Miscellany Manuscripts


Medieval Manuscripts
Middle High German
Distant Reading
Miscellany Manuscripts

How to Cite

Fernández Riva, G. (2021). Naming and Renaming Texts: Rubrics in Middle High German Miscellany Manuscripts. Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, (8), 245–263.


This article analyses rubrics in Middle High German miscellany manuscripts of short texts in rhyming couplets (Reimpaargedichte). A corpus consisting of 1433 rubrics from 68 manuscripts was created to be able to perform this study. As rubrics in medieval manuscripts were not authorial, but composed by scribes, they offer insights into the reception of the texts. This paper analyses their features and functions as a proxy to interrogate the standing and status of Reimpaargedichte between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. The main methodology is distant reading, i.e. the application and interpretation of statistical methods on a textual corpus. The features analyzed include the length of the rubrics, their level of variation, the presence of author names, and vocabulary. Although no general patterns regarding length nor level of variation were detected, some important conclusions can be drawn: 1. there were no clear markers of literary genre in rubrics; 2. authorship was mostly absent, except for some specific cases of famous authors; 3. relatively stable keywords were used to identify particular texts, but they were more common in manuscripts with narrative texts (Erzählungen) and less common in later manuscripts dominated by the genre known as Minnereden. Furthermore, the analysis revealed that rubrics used a series of linguistic procedures to show that they participated in a different speech act than the main text – they embodied an interaction between scribes and readers, in which the former framed the reception of the work.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Gustavo Fernández Riva


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