Sebastian Kleinschmidt

Sebastian Kleinschmidt, M.A.


Graduiertenkolleg 1767 “Factual and fictional narration”
Erbprinzenstraße 13
79085 Freiburg im Breisgau


From 2009 to 2015 Sebastian Kleinschmidt studied English/American Studies, Biology (both B.A.), and Medieval and Renaissance Studies with a major in English and minors in German, History and Philosophy (M.A.) at Ruhr University Bochum. In 2012 he worked as a supply teacher for English at Theodor-Heuss-Gymnasium Radevormwald and taught German as a foreign language assistant for the Edinburgh City Council in the following school year 2012/2013. From 2012 to 2015 he was also an eLearning tutor for the B.A. course Medieval English Literature (English Seminar, Ruhr University Bochum) and a student assistant at Professor Dr. Luuk Houwen’s Chair of Old and Middle English Language, Literature, and Culture (English Seminar, Ruhr University Bochum).

Besides medieval vision literature and narratology, his research interests include fables and animal literature, chivalric romances (especially of the Matière de Bretagne) and Scottish Medieval and early Renaissance Literature, as well as the influence of medieval theology and philosophy on lay piety and literature.

Since 2015 he is a member of the research training group “Factual and Fictional Narration” at the University of Freiburg.


Memoria or Imaginatio? Narrating Salvation in Middle English Visions of the Afterlife

(Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Monika Fludernik (University of Freiburg) and Prof. Dr. Henrike Manuwald (University of Göttingen))

Visions of the afterlife were popular all over Europe throughout the Middle Ages, more than 170 narratives have survived to this day (Dinzelbacher 1981: 12). They constitute an interesting ‘genre’, especially in the vernaculars, as they oscillate between religious edification and secular entertainment. Their factual claim of narrating a true/genuine visionary experience accompanied by a process of narrativisation as well as/or literarisation of this experience, i.e. the embedding of the supposed experience in the literary vision tradition (which is not to be mistaken with a process of fictionalisation), creates tension both on the side of the production as well as on the side of the reception, which will be addressed in my project.

Assuming that the events in visions of the afterlife were, at least by some, believed to be true and that one can regard them as predictive and normative narrations of reality (Klein/Martínez 2009: 6), my dissertation will analyse and question how Middle English visions of the afterlife, all ‘products’ of the later Middle Ages (1300-1510), narrate salvation. This goal is approached through two complementing questions: first of all, how do visions narrate, communicate and evaluate the salvific message? And second, what does this tell us about their usage in lay culture and what can we learn about lay culture (its beliefs, its tastes, etc.) from analysing visions of the afterlife?

In order to answer these questions my project will approach aforesaid visions from a narratological (esp. Fludernik 1996 and von Contzen 2014, 2016) and a rhetorical point of view. Aspects such as the role of the narrator – whether we even can and need to identify one –, perspective, narration of consciousness, time and space as well as the visions’ use of orality and literacy will be analysed and their function for understanding the important Christian concept of salvation will be shown. Thereby, the visions’ role in lay piety and their popularity will become clear.

Additionally, this thesis also (implicitly) aims to propagate narratology for medieval literature by showing the (dis-)advantages of utilising this modern concept.

Works Cited

Contzen, Eva von. The Scottish Legendary. Towards a Poetics of Hagiographic Narration. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2016.

Contzen, Eva von. “Saints’ Lives as Narrative Art? Towards a Pragma-Narratological Approach to the Scottish Legendary.” Linguistics and Literary Studies: Interfaces, Encounters, Transfers. Eds. Monika Fludernik and Daniel Jacob. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2014. 171-97.

Dinzelbacher, Peter. Vision und Visionsliteratur im Mittelalter. Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann, 1981.

Fludernik, Monika. Towards a Natural Narratology. London: Routledge, 1996.

Klein, Christian und Martías Martínez, eds. “Wirklichkeitserzählungen. Felder, Formen und Funktionen nicht-literarischen Erzählens.” Wirklichkeitserzählungen. Felder, Formen und Funktionen nicht-literarischen Erzählens. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2009. 1-13.

Teaching Experience

  • Summer Semester 2017: Middle English Romances (State Board Exam Preparation)


  • mit Verena Linder-Spohn. “Was ein Rahmen möglich macht: Die mittelalterliche Vision als ‚Spielraum‘ des Fiktionalen.“ Geschichte der Fiktionalität. Ergon Verlag 2018.


  • mit Verena Linder-Spohn und Thorsten Glückhardt. Renarrativierung in der Vormoderne (conference proceedings). Ergon Verlag 2017.

Conference papers/presentations

  • “‘Am I supposed to know who or what that is?’: ‘Medieval’ Overload in Shawn Speakman’s The Dark Thorn (2011)?”, presented at The Middle Ages in the Modern World (MAMO 3), Manchester, United Kingdom (Jun/Jul 2017)
  • “Embodying Salvation – Crossing the Boundary Between the Narrative and the Reader in Middle English Visions of the Afterlife,” presented at Bodies in Flux: Rewriting the Body in Medieval Literature, Art and Culture 1000-1450, Warwick, United Kingdom (May 2017)
  • Memoria or Imaginatio? Narrating Salvation in Middle English Visions of the Afterlife” (presentation of diss.), presented at EUCOR English Trinational PhD & MA Conference, Basel, Switzerland (Apr 2017)
  • “End Time Here and Now – Narrating and Reading (about) Time in the Revelation of Purgatory,” presented at Time: Aspects and Approaches. The Thirteenth Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference, Oxford, United Kingdom (Mar/Apr 2017)
  • “Verborgene Kritik? Das Geheimnis der Gnade Gottes und die Zweifel daran in der Vision of Tundale,” presented at Symposium des Mediävistenverbandes: Geheimnis und Verborgenes im Mittelalter, Bonn, Germany (Mar 2017)
  • “Visionary Romance or Chivalric Vision? Late Medieval Taste in Visions of the Afterlife,” presented at The XI Cardiff Conference on Theory and Practice of Translation in the Middle Ages, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria (Mar 2017)
  • Memoria or Imaginatio? Narrating Salvation in Middle English Vision of the Afterlife” (presentation of diss.), presented at Wuppertaler Graduiertenforum Narratologie at University of Wuppertal, Germany (Dec 2016)
  • “Excessive Cruelty in Purgatorial Torture: Transcending God’s Justice in Middle English Visions of the Afterlife,” presented at Divine (In)Justice in Antiquity and the Middle Ages at University of Sheffield, United Kingdom (Nov 2016)
  • “Schreie im Fegefeuer – Teuflischer Lärm und wehklagende Seelen in mittelenglischen Jenseitsvisionen,” presented at Lautsphären im Mittelalter – Akustische Perspektiven zwischen Lärm und Stille at Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany (Sep 2016)
  • “Narrating Visions – Factual Claim and Fictional Narration in the Vision of Tundale,” presented at Studientag zum Englischen Mittelalter (SEM XVIII) at University of Bonn, Germany (Mar 2016)