Doctoral Dissertation Prize for study on Habsburg and Timurid rulers

Mediävistenverband honours comparative cultural dissertation from the Cluster of Excellence

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The Mediävistenverband has awarded its Doctoral Dissertation Prize to the dissertation “Macht und Literatur bei Timuriden und Habsburgern” (Power and Literature with the Timurids and Habsburgs) by the German philologist Kristina Rzehak from the Cluster of Excellence. The comparative cross-cultural study investigates descriptions of political transition and cultural flourishing in the self-testimonies of Babur and Maximilian I, as the subtitle says. Click here to read the laudation (in German). The volume has recently been published by Ergon-Verlag in the Cluster of Excellence’s series “Religion and Politics”. From February 2009 to January 2012, Rzehak was a doctoral student at the Graduate School of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”.

“It is above all the differences between the Christian west and the Islamic east that are stressed in the current media coverage”, the author says. A closer look at the history of the two cultural regions reveals a similar development: “Renaissance is the name given to a phase both in the Holy Roman Empire under the Habsburgs and in the territory of the Timurids.” This apparent similarity is used as a starting point for an analysis of the situation of the two cultural regions around 900/1500. At that time, the dynasties were ruled by the emperors Maximilian I and Babur. Their self-testimonies form the basis for comparative analysis.

Tolerance of ambiguity

The questions addressed by the study are: which kind of important similarities can be found in the texts, and where do they originate? Can significant differences be identified which may reveal the starting point of the diverging development of the cultures? The analysis reveals many similarities. It becomes apparent that the typological comparison of literary texts can contribute to a more precise and historically correct interpretation than that of current trends, which strongly emphasise differences between the cultures of West and East. Even the detected difference can be insightful: it can be seen as an early sign of divergence of the two cultural areas in the area of ambiguity tolerance. (Ergon/vvm)

Reference: Rzehak, Kristina: Macht und Literatur bei Timuriden und Habsburgern. Politischer Übergang und kulturelle Blüte in den Selbstzeugnissen Baburs und Maximilians I. (Religion und Politik 19), Würzburg: Ergon-Verlag 2019, 378 pages, ISBN 978-3-95650-499-0.