Research Focus

Historiography and Didactic Literature

This sub-project will aim at analyzing the symbolic and practical construction of community in and through historiographical texts written in the duchies of Austria and Styria in the late 13th and early 14th century. This period is characterized by major political changes and social upheavals following the death of the last Babenberg duke Friedrich II in 1246, and the subsequent reign of Přemysl Otakar II and the early Habsburg rulers as dukes in the duchies of Austria and Styria – as exemplified by the uprisings of newly emerging and increasingly more politically influential groups, like citizens and ministerials. At the same time, an increase and a diversification of historical writing can be observed: while world chronicles and annals had dominated in the Early and High Middle Ages, and clerics or monasteries were almost exclusively responsible for the complex tasks of individual and institutional memoria, in the Late Middle Ages also lay people, mostly men belonging to elite groups at court or in the urban milieu, started to write down histories, primarily using the vernacular.

As textual representations of the past are affected by the concrete historical context in which they were written, as well as by the ‘social world’ of their authors, this project will compare historiographies that approximately share the same periods of writing and reporting, all of the narrating or commenting on the history of the Austrian, Styrian, and Bohemian lands and their neighbouring countries, but whose authors and audiences supposedly came from different socio-cultural backgrounds. In a typological classification, which will be critically questioned throughout the project, the authors, as well as the presumable audiences of the texts, can be placed into the central analytical categories of City, Court and Cloister of the overarching VISCOM Project:

city = Jans der Enikel’s Fürstenbuch, composed in the 1280s, reports on 1025-1246;

court = Ottokar von der Steiermark’s Steirische Reimchronik, composed in the 1320s, reports on 1246-1309;

cloister = Gutolfs von Heiligenkreuz’s Historia annorum 1264-1279 and his Translatio Sanctae Delicianae, composed in the 1270/80s, reports on the 1260s-1280s.

By approaching historical writing as a cultural practice with identity building functions, this project will ask how these authors construct particular meanings / visions of community in their texts. How are different social groups represented and designated in the texts? Are there any indications of shared belonging and non-belonging, i.e. denominations of “us” vs. “them”? Which groups and persons share commonality and togetherness, and against whom difference and otherness is constructed? According to which categories are common affiliations and non-affiliations articulated?

By comparing these, and other, narratives and analyzing their specific representations of belonging and non-belonging, as well as their constructions of “togetherness” and “otherness”, the aim of this project is to gain insight into the various ways contemporaries made sense of community in late 13th / early 14th century Austria, as well as about the situational and contested ways meanings of community were constructed. In addition to the symbolic constructions of community, the ways in which these meanings of community might have served as models of identification for the presumable audiences of historiographies and how the texts might have fulfilled community-building functions will be a focal point of this project.

Research associate - PhD projects:

Maria Mair: Visions of Community in Austrian Historiography (13th/14th centuries)

Markus Gneiß: Noble Identities and the Distinction between Social Groups in Late Medieval Austria,  to be completed by mid-2018.

It will contribute to the recently renewed research discussion of the making of political and social "estates" in Late Medieval Europe. Drawing on a variety of historiographical and literary texts and charters the study focuses on examining processes of identification within different "noble" groups in the duchy of Austria, esp. and in border areas with Bohemia and Moravia. It aims to clarify patterns of political, legal and social differentiation within the nobility, which reveal distinguishable, but not yet bounded social groups.  

Publication of the results of the international workshop Narrating Communities between Latin and Vernaculars: Historiographies in Central and Eastern Central Europe (c.13th-16th) organized by Christina Lutter and Pavlina Rychterová within the publication series Historiographies of Identity (VISCOM P02 and P06, Princeton University, ERC Starting Grant OVERMODE) in 2016.

Illustration: Zisterzienserstift Zwettl, Stiftsbibliothek, Hs. 2/1, fol. 8r, 13. Jhdt.: Stifterbuch „Bärenhaut“

Last Update: 05.12.19