In contrast to this polarization, it seemed worthwhile to develop a theory of literary genres within a field of inquiry that lies between the opposites of singularity and collectivity, of the artistic character of literature and its merely purposive or social character. Medieval vernacular literatures are especially appropriate for such an attempt. For in this area philological studies have barely gotten beyond individual monographs, themselves often only overviews. These
genres are a long way from being sufficiently delimited, let alone historically represented in their historical contemporaneity and sequence. The generic divisions of the handbooks rest on a convention of the discipline that is scarcely called into question any longer, according to which one promiscuously uses original characterizations, classical genre concepts, and later classifications. In international discussion, Romance literary studies have for a long time failed to advance any contribution to a historical systematics or to the general development of a theory of literary genres.1 This failure has its material reasons, but also its scholarly-historical ones.