To possess factual information pertaining to the life of any courtly poet is a rare occurrence; the poet as professional writer and public figure is, after all, a relatively recent phenomenon. In the case of Wolfram von Eschenbach, few documented details exist. Fortunately, Wolfram was a personable poet who could not refrain from injecting his experiences and opinions into his works. From his utterances, scholars have been able to reconstruct a plausible, if sketchy, vita.
Drawing on literary references, dialect evidence, and geographical speculation, scholars have concluded that Wolfram’s home was probably in Eschenbach, a Franconian town southeast of Ansbach in present-day Bavaria. There is no record of his family, of his formative years, or of his schooling. In fact, Wolfram’s innocent pronouncement in Parzival, “I don’t know a single letter of the alphabet,” has become enigmatic: Does he intend to admit his unlearned background, to boast of his literary accomplishment despite his inability to read and write, or to twit his educated principal critic, Gottfried? In any event, it is clear that he was not formally educated, for influences of classical Latin writers (a staple in the monastery schools) are absent in his poems. Significantly, Wolfram himself never mentioned having “read” from his literary sources; his frequent references to having “heard” information leads scholars to presume that source material was...
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