In the well-known context of pagan and Jewish/early Christian ideas, Christian afterworld spaces form in the tension between patristic conceptions and visionary literary imaginings. The Apocalypse of Paul, condemned by St. Augustine, took on great significance in post-ancient times. The project based on the hypothesis that the imagining of distinct afterworld spaces is especially fertile in stabilizing and popularizing the semantics of the Christian afterworld.
In the Middle Ages, the imaginings of afterworld spaces were significantly modified: On the one hand in terms of the process by which individual texts are conveyed (which can be depicted by comparing the long Latin versions of the Apocalypse of Paul to its medieval redactions and translations); on the other hand in terms of the genesis of new texts, especially in the 12th and 13th centuries in connection with penitence practices and newly developed doctrines about sin (e.g. purgatory). To adequately reflect these aspects, the investigation has been based on a representational selection of texts that were widespread in the Middle Ages. This calls for a comparative approach. The analyzed Middle High German artefacts are transformations of traditions passed on in Latin; their discreteness and specific aesthetics become distinguishable when compared to the Latin versions. The text corpus upon which the research has been based displays the following contours: In regard to broad distribution, the Latin Visio Tnugdali by Frater Marcus (12th century) is especially important; it has come down to us in more than 150 manuscripts. The study draws on Alber’s Tundal (12th century), as well as on Tondolus der Ritter, printed by J. and C. Hist in the late 15th century. This “prose novel” lifts the study’s objective onto a new level in terms of the interdependence between narration and visual elements (woodcuts). The Latin Tractatus de Purgatorio S. Patricii (12th century) too is important for the popularization, stabilization, and modification of the imaginings of the afterworld. It is the basis for the Visiones Georgii, which has been examined in a 14th-century German translation and redaction.
The precarious relationship between vision and script has been fertilised for an analysis of the “poetic” structure of revelatory aspects these texts entail. In the respective context in which the visions were written, redacted, or translated, this problem in its semiotic dimension becomes production-aesthetically and reception-aesthetically virulent in very specific ways, e.g. where the suggestive power of imagined afterworld spaces becomes the equivalent of an “adtestatio rei visae”. Thus, the project also addressed texts that reflect upon this revelationary character and that treat afterworldly topographies and eschatological problems in the categorical framework of “this” world (as in the Brendan/Brandan tradition).
The dissertation was completed in spring 2012 and was published in 2013 with the title “Gesicht und Schrift. Die Erzählung von Jenseitsreisen in Antike und Mittelalter” (de Gruyter, Berlin). An abstract can be found in eTopoi. Journal for Ancient Studies vol. 2 (2012/13) pp. 131–144.