- The Short Chronicle: A Poor Clare’s Account of the Reformation of Geneva
Jeanne de Jussie’s (1503–61) Short Chronicle recounts the tumultuous events leading to the introduction of the Protestant Reformation in Geneva in the early 1530s and its implications for her community, the nuns of Saint Clare. Accounts of reform by those who opposed it are infrequently preserved; it is rare to have such a lively and detailed account of these events recorded by a woman at the centre of them. Carrie Klaus’s engaging translation of this fascinating record is a fine addition to the collection of Early Modern women’s writings translated and published in the series ‘The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe’.
In a concise introduction, Klaus presents a brief sketch of the Reformation in Geneva, a short biography on Jeanne de Jussie, the order of Poor Clares and the convent in Geneva, and the main stylistic and thematic aspects of the text. This prefatory material suffices to orient the reader to the work, [End Page 209] although to fully appreciate the historical and religious context of the events Jussie recounts, readers will need to turn to more comprehensive studies. Surprisingly, Klaus does not reflect on Jussie as an author, other than to observe that at the time she composed her Short Chronicle she served as the convent’s secretary.
Close reading of Jussie’s work will reward people looking for insights into her authorial self-perception, her world-view and claims to veracity. This work also raises questions about how Jussie learnt of the events taking place outside the cloister, her community’s interactions with the citizens of Geneva, and how she and her sisters negotiated the spaces of their enclosure.
Klaus bases her translation on the critical edition of the text by Helmut Feld (Petite chronique, Mainz, von Zabern, 1996). Her translation is lively and engaging, retaining the immediacy of Jussie’s style. Part of the work’s appeal lies in the author’s use of dialogue, which adds drama to her story of the increasing violence and menace the nuns faced as the citizens of Geneva sought to impose the reformed faith on the convent. The nuns’ refusal to abandon their vocation resulted in their forced departure from Geneva to Annecy in 1535, a tragic event for Jussie, which prompted her to compose this work. A lasting impression of this work is how women such as Jussie fought to preserve their integrity – physical and spiritual – in the face of strident, frequently violent, assaults upon them during the Reformation.
Jussie’s Short Chronicle is a terrific (and affordable) resource for teaching – short, very readable, and her lively anecdotal style will appeal to undergraduate students in courses on the Early Modern period, Reformation studies, women’s writing, and gender and religion.
Australian National University