Starting from the deficiencies of current approaches regarding the description of the hero in medieval narratives, this article aims to functionalise exorbitance (unmâze) as a new category of literary history. Unlike the conceptual and binary typing of the protagonist as ‘hero’ resp. ‘knight’, this category promotes a flexible model that operates relationally and hence enables gradual differentiations between the texts.Examples of medieval (heroic) epic (‘Nibelungenlied’) and (chivalric) romance (‘Flore und Blanscheflur’, ‘Wigalois’) will show the narrative treatment and stylisation of the exorbitant hero. The focus will be on the varying assessments of his acts: If the epic hero is able to defy social norms and current laws (cf. Siegfried’s courtship, Hagen’s murdering of Siegfried) without being penalised, the exorbitance in the romance falls within the scope of ‘ratio’. Thus, exorbitance is on the one hand confined and ‘assessed’, on the other hand excessive acts are rigorously sanctioned and inhibited. Referring to the current manifestations of exorbitance in the socio-political context, the concept of exorbitance emerges as an unchanged productive pattern. Its socio-political relevance encourages a literary-historical, epoch-spanning use of this concept, whose scope is a re-assessment of the history of literature as the history of exorbitance.
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