Select Page

Waltharius’ Witz. A Freudian Analysis of Irony in the Waltharius

The paper Waltharius’ Witz is an analysis of irony in the medieval epic Waltharius, based on Freud’s Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten and Der Humor. The intention of this research is to add further nuances to Kratz’s model for interpreting the Waltharius and its irony, which concerns the relationship between heroic and Christian codes in this epic. Instead of explaining the various examples of irony through an interpretation of the Waltharius as a whole, the opposite approach is taken: the interpretation of the entire epic is based on a close examination of the examples of irony and the tendencies that lurk behind them.

The Waltharius is introduced and the interpretative model of Kratz, in which the irony of this epic is explained as a mocking of the characters. The epic heroes are mocked because of their vitia, which prevent them from becoming Christian heroes. The analysis based on Freud’s works however, differentiates irony according to the categories mentioned in Der Witz: jokes, the comic and humour. Having uncovered these ironic tendencies and the shift from the comic to the humoristic at the ending of the epic, a new interpretation is outlined as a struggle to reach an equilibrium between heroic and Christian code, by conquering human frailty through humour. This seems to fit the monastic culture of the 10th century.