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Title: Historical distance and difference in the twelfth-century Middle High German Kaiserchronik
Author: Pretzer, Christoph Joseph
ISNI:       0000 0004 7426 5247
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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The episode framework of the Kaiserchronik is as much a semanticising structure as the chronicle’s content. If treated analogous to Hayden White’s analysis of annals the conceptual continuity of the Roman Empire as the object of narration becomes all the more clearer. The episodes are used as pegs for a wide selection of historical narratives, which are decontextualised and presented unmoored from its traditional semantic environment. Only its place in the continuous succession of emperor episodes imbues them with historical meaning. The mobility of these episodes, however, is limited as two dimensions emerge within which the chronicle does have to negotiate qualitative change which translates into historical difference and not only distance as the episode framework produces it. Next to its axial episode paradigm the Kaiserchronik also employs rhetorics as a tool to create distance. This however happens mainly to distance itself from an unspecified group of other texts. The Kaiserchronik aims to polemicise against those text which don’t share its ideas about poetic artefactuality and composition. The transformation of the Roman Empire from a pagan into a Christian one is one of the essential threads of the Kaiserchronik. The gradual substitution of the polytheistic worship of demons disguised as gods with Christian monotheism is the driving motivator behind the selection of much of the narrative material up until Constantine and Theodosius. The aim here is not to device a teleological salvation historical trajectory but to negotiate the qualitative change of religious identity in the conceptually unchanged Roman Empire. This means that Christianity even after its assertion always remains vulnerable. While the Roman Empire always remains Roman, the perspective on it and its rulers changes significantly. Even when the Roman Empire is ruled by Roman emperors the chronicle opportunistically latches on to several opportunities to emphasis the historical closeness of the Germans or of discrete German peoples to the body and history of the Roman Empire. This is especially poignant during the Caesar episode, which sees the inauguration of the Empire as an imperial genealogy and in the Charlemagne episode, which marks the switch of perspective from an internally and essentially Roman one to a transalpine on, which, however, never fully asserts a fully conceptualised Germanness.
Supervisor: Chinca, Mark Gianni Sponsor: AHRC ; University of Cambridge ; Tiarks Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Medieval ; German ; Literature ; Historiography ; Kaiserchronik ; Twelfth Century ; Vernacular ; Episodes ; Narratology ; Caesar ; Charlemagne ; Daniel