Every narrator is biased: the polyphonic poetics of 'The Seven Sages of Rome' in a German version

Bettina M Bildhauer*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article demonstrates that a German-lan­guage verse version of ‘The Seven Sages’ from the first half of the 15th century, entitled ‘Of the Seven Masters’, has a sophisticated polyphonic poetics. ‘Of the Seven Masters’ shows that any single narrative and interpre­tation is necessarily biased by the particular situation of the narrator or interpreter, and that any decision based on such a single version and understanding of a narrative is rash. This is illustrated not only by the fifteen embedded stories and their interpretations but also within the frame narrative by three different accounts and interpretations of the central scene of sexual violence, neither of which justifies the quick decision and violent actions that follow. ‘Of the Seven Masters’ makes explicit that this one-sided narration even includes the heterodiegetic narrator, who in the prologue is presented as an interpreter of limited skill whose interpretations are biased by a specific didactic intent and who is on a par with the seven sages as only one of multiple voices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-154
Number of pages18
JournalDas Mittelalter
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2023


  • 'Seven Sages of Rome'
  • Poetics
  • Frame narrative
  • Interpretation
  • Narration


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