This paper deals with a core issue in the field of medieval Low German literature, namely whether it is possible to speak about «Middle Low German literature». After a survey of the most relevant critical approaches to this issue, the author decides to adopt the theoretical and analytical framework provided by Even-Zohar’s «Polysystem Theory», since a systemic approach makes it possible to focus on the distribution and articulation of literary activities in the different social groups and on the different cultural levels which together formed the literary polysystem of Northern Germany during the Late Middle Ages. The author comes to the conclusion that the use of different linguistic varieties in relation to different textual sorts in Northern Germany makes it questionable to speak of «Middle Low German literature», and totally inappropriate to speak of «Middle Low German literary polysystem». More correctly one should speak of a multilingual medieval «Northern German literary polysystem» which includes a plurality of literary activities and products.
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