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Journal of Literary Theory

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Wertungsübertragung und Kontiguität. Mit zwei Beispielen zur Wertung des Frageversäumnisses im Parzival

Friedrich Michael Dimpel
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Published Online: 2014-08-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jlt-2014-0016


Simone Winko (1991) has put forward a model for analysing the structures of values in texts. The model describes explicit and implicit evalua­tions, defining implicit evaluation (which can take place by means of parallelism, contrast, or transposition) in microstructural terms. This article adds a macrostructural component to the framework: the transfer of values (Wertungsübertragung). The concept is developed using the generation of meaning by correlation (korrelative Sinnstiftung, Stock 2002) as a starting point: when elements of a text are related to each other by equivalences, these relations of equivalence cause, by means of analogy or contrast, differences between various parts of a text to become apparent. These differences and commonalities, Stock suggests, prompt us to form theses about the meaning of the combination in the text.

The transfer of values can be seen as a particular case of meaning being generated by correlation: a first object (the source element in the text) undergoes an explicit or explicit evaluation and that evaluation is transferred to a second object (the target element in the text) on the basis of relations of contiguity and equivalence. In the case of the progressive transfer of values, an evaluation of a source element that precedes the target element is transferred to the latter in a chronologically linear manner. Conversely, in the case of the regressive transfer of values, an element in the text initially lacks a clear evaluation: an evaluation of a source element can be transferred to the earlier target element in an inversion of the chronological order in which they appeared.

Whereas explicit evaluations are clearly expressed in the text, implicit evaluations must be identified by recipients on the basis of the textual evidence (parallels, relations of contrast, etc.). Where the transfer of values is concerned, too, the recipient has to be able to recognize the relation between the source and target elements in the text. A transfer of values that is based on an explicit evaluation is therefore an aspect of reception. A transfer of values that is based on an implicit evaluation is likewise an aspect of reception, but now in two ways: the point of reference for the evaluation must, if it is not stated on the surface level of the text, be reconstructed by means of warrants (Winko 1991, 141–143). The transfer of values is, finally, also possible when element A is followed by element B in a text and B is, as the source element, explicitly or implicitly evaluated. If on a second occasion A is again followed by B, the first evaluation of the source element can be transferred to both A and B: A and B form a thematic cluster (Schulz 2010, 358). Evaluations of cluster elements can be transferred to other cluster elements in other locations.

A transfer of values that is based on an explicit evaluation of the source element of the text can acquire a higher degree of manifestness (Jannidis 2004, 57–60) than one that is based on an implicit or hidden evaluation. When analysing the structure of values in a text, it is necessary to determine how the transfer of values is weighted relative to other kinds of evaluation (see Prinz/Winko 2013, 405f.). Criteria for doing so can include primacy effects; the quantitative dimension of the transfer of values; further occurrences of elements in the text that are based on comparable relations of contiguity and equivalence; the number of textual features/cluster elements that are based on these relations of contiguity and equivalence; the robustness of the evaluation of the source element in the text (reliability, competence, and the knowledge of the evaluating agent); striking features of stylistic expression; the number and relevance of all the other evaluations, including behavioural preferences of the figures and the way sympathies are channelled; the relation to extratextual points of reference for evaluations.

Transfers of values are based not on the direct ascription of a value to an object of evaluation but on equivalence and contiguity – that is, on adjacency in terms of time and space or content (Haferland 2009, 82). Contiguity is a form of connection that is less distinctive than causality. Identifying causality, just like identifying contiguity, involves the act of reception. Because recipients tend to assume, in a post hoc, ergo propter hoc manner, a meaningful link between events that adjoin each other in time and space, contiguity relations often suggest that a causal connection accompanies them. If recipients decide to accept this, there results a stronger link between the elements than is explicitly present in the text. This ›error‹ can lead to transfers of values having a marked influence on how a particular process of reception unfolds in practice.

The transfer of values, moreover, does not necessarily always have to be less strongly weighted than, say, explicit evaluation. As with the processes by means of which sympathies are channelled, it can be assumed that its not only explicit information in the text and instances of active reflection in the process of reception that feed into the matrix of values that a particular recipient assembles for a text in the course of their reading. Advertising shows how well positive connotations can be transferred to the product being marketed from contexts that are very distant from it. Elements of a text that lack an eye-catching position in the foreground can still contribute on a subliminally significant level to the recip­ient’s impression. Although explicit evaluations by the narrator stand out and can prompt the recipient to reflect on them, a passing reference to an emotion of a minor character, for instance, can take on a considerable potential significance in influencing reception (Dimpel 2011, 72–75, 402–414).

Two representative examples of the transfer of values in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival are presented. Parzival adopts ›obedience to authority‹ as the point of reference for his values at the Grail Castle: his instructor, Gurnemanz, enjoined him to avoid questions. Parzival therefore does not ask the question about the suffering of the Grail King that would have freed Anfortas from his suffering. Whereas the narrator merely laments that the question was not asked but does not negatively evaluate this, Parzival is on the receiving end of intense criticism from other characters (Sigune, Cundrie, Trevrizent) who clearly assess Parzival’s omission in terms of the value of ›pity‹ as a point of reference. The structure of the text’s values is also ambiguous in a wider sense: Parzival’s perspective as a character certainly has a considerable quantitative dimension and the decision he makes on the spot makes sense – yet the representation of Anfortas’s suffering also takes up a considerable amount of space and the consequences of the failure to ask the question receive much attention.

In the scene with the three drops of blood in the snow, Parzival’s interior life is contrasted with the external world through his love for his wife – the attacking knights are presented as vain. The interior world is given priority over the external world – a regressive transfer of values to the omission of the question, correlating Parzival’s positive intention of following Gurnemanz’s counsel with other positive aspects of his interiority as a character.

The condemnation of Parzival by Cundrie at the Arthurian court is linked by contiguity and equivalence to the accusation of Gawan by Kingrimursel, who alleges that he murdered his lord. Parzival receives religious absolution in Book IX, but Trevrizent still presents the redemption of the Grail King as impossible. Immediately afterwards, the charge against Gawan turns out to be unjustified – the murder was committed by someone else. Thus, by means of a regressive transfer of values, Cundrie’s reproaches against Parzival appear in a light that can make them seem unjustified. No causal explanation is given for why Parzival later receives a second chance to redeem Anfortas, so it would seem that the relevance of the re-evaluation of Gawan’s supposed guilt in the composition of the Parzival story cannot be underestimated.

Published Online: 2014-08-22

Published in Print: 2014-08-01

Citation Information: Journal of Literary Theory. Volume 8, Issue 2, Pages 343–367, ISSN (Online) 1862-8990, ISSN (Print) 1862-5290, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jlt-2014-0016, August 2014

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