The Imaginary Capital

Stephen Brockmann


Camden House



Traces the development of ideas of Nuremberg as cultural and spiritual capital, thus offering a coherent view of German cultural and intellectual history.
Nuremberg: The Imaginary Capital is a broad study of German cultural history since 1500, with particular emphasis on the period since 1800. It explores the ways in which Germans have imagined Nuremberg as a cultural and spiritual capital, focusing feelings of national identity and belonging on the city -- or on their image of it. Chapters focus on the city of Dürer and Sachs at the threshold of the modern era, the glory of which became the basis for all the other imaginary Nurembergs; the Romantic rediscovery of the city in the late 18th century and the institutionalization of Nuremberg discourse through the Germanic National Museum in the mid 19th; Wagner's Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the most famous artistic invocation of the Nuremberg myth; the Nazi use and misuse of the Nuremberg myth, along with Leni Riefenstahl's film Triumph des Willens, not only the best-known Nuremberg film but also the most significant documentary of Hitler's Third Reich; and finally the postwar development in which "Nuremberg" became the symbol of a new kind of international law and justice. Stephen Brockmann analyzes how the city came to be seen, in Germany and elsewhere, as representative of the national whole. He goes beyond the analysis of particular historical periods by showing how successive epochs and their images of Nuremberg built on those preceding them, thus viewing German cultural and intellectual history as an intelligible unity centered around fascination and veneration for a particular city.

Stephen Brockmann is Professor of German at Carnegie Mellon University. He is the recipient of the 2007 DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in German and European Studies/Humanities.


October 2006
32 black and white illustrations
358 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571133458
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, HIS014000, HIS054000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Why "Nuremberg"?
A Small Town in Germany
The Capital of Nostalgia
Metropolitan Monument
Empire of Longing
Representing Rapture
Nuremberg Goes Global
Conclusion: Ab Urbe ad Orbem
Works Cited


Brockmann's in-depth study demonstrates how the city of Nuremberg has been a focal point of discourses on Germany and Germanness at least from the Age of Romanticism.... (A)n excellent contribution to German cultural studies. The author's combination of historiography, museum studies, literary analysis, and film studies, to name but a few of the fields he explores, will prove worthwhile reading.... A highly useful and stimulating source for ... German studies and beyond.... MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

(T)races the construction of a particular form of urban legend, the idealized German city of the Meistersinger that the Nazis exploited so successfully.... (G)ood on the ways that myths are constructed, with an excellent feel for what scholars call "the invention of tradition." TLS

(F)ew historians have examined the past of Nuremberg.... Brockmann undertakes to remedy this omission through a cultural study that shows how the city's past has been reconstructed through writers, artists, and filmmakers over five centuries.... (C)oncerns constructions of history as much as it does the town itself. CHOICE

(Brockmann's study) brings to light -- in its blending of local, national, and world history -- numerous aspects of Nuremberg's history that will be new even to the native historian. MITTEILUNGEN DES VEREINS FÜR GESCHICHTE DER STADT NÜRNBERG

...(R)anges through an impressive array of primary sources to illuminate the many ways that scholars, writers, artists, and politicians have represented Nuremberg as a "synecdoche" of Germany over the past two hundred years.... The multiple levels on which Brockmann operates and the variety of sources he explores ... make the book thorough, enjoyable to read, and full of material that should be of interest to a wide variety of scholars. H-NET GERMAN REVIEWS

Brockmann's study ... stands out as one of the most original and thought-provoking contributions to the genre (of memory studies). It should be essential reading for anyone interested in the culture and politics of Germany since 1800. JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES

Brockmann guides his reader through the topographies of various Nurembergs in such a way that the cities effortlessly merge in his imagination.... He introduces us to the many voices of ordinary citizens, but also of Richard Wagner and Leni Riefenstahl.... GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

Author Bio

Associate professor of German, Carnegie Mellon University.

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