The Zimmern Chronicle Nobility, Memory, and Self-Representation in Sixteenth-Century Germany
The Zimmern Chronicle: Nobility, Memory, and Self-Representation in Sixteenth-Century Germany brings the history of the Zimmern family to English readers for the first time. In it the author not only offers a new solution to the problem of the text's authorship, but examines the chronicle in the context of broader current debates, including the problem of the relationship of the early modern German nobility to the state; memory studies; and self-representation. The Zimmern Chronicle is arguably the most famous noble family chronicle to come out of sixteenth-century Germany. Unlike other noble chronicles that appeared at the same time, this work is distinctive in that it represents the collective memory of the Southwest German nobility. Not content to give voice only to their own ancestry-and by extension their own existence-the Zimmern authors included the voices of their noble contemporaries. By memorializing relationships within their community, they drew attention to the increasingly important issue of how their lineages had been historically constituted. Bastress-Dukehart first relates the history of the chronicle and introduces the long-standing mystery surrounding the text's authorship. She then draws attention to the importance of inheritance and the obligation for ancestral memorialization that property devolution demands. Put simply, inherited land and ancestral memory together manifested the nobility's social image and demonstrated its political power. She then sets the stage for the history the chronicle tells, recounting a feud between the Zimmern family and the more powerful Werdenberg family and examining how in general feuds helped to shape the German nobility's political relationships and personal values. Thus, Bastress-Dukehart portrays the Zimmern Chronicle as far more than just a family history. She argues that because the Zimmern authors filled their work with legends, sexual tales, and farcical stories of daily life in Southwest Germany, they proved themselves adept at offering their readers puzzles to solve, of sparking imagination and stimulating curiosity. In short, they developed a number of memory devices intended to make certain that their audience, once engaged, would read their work to its conclusion. Who, after all, would not want a glimpse into the minds, habits, and bedrooms of the pre-modern nobility? By adopting these devices, the Zimmern authors have proven the sanctity of the obligation to memorialize ancestral achievements: their chronicle has endured-the memory of the family continues.
'... immensely revealing of the persistently violent culture and risky politics of knighthood in the age before the nation-state...' Sixteenth Century Journal