Posted on 22 May 2015
The Reformation was a pivotal event in the history and heritage of England, Europe and the world, which has decisively shaped politics, culture, and society in the centuries since. The violence and turmoil of its intense conflicts continue to divide communities and have left a lasting imprint upon the landscape, physical environment, and literature of Europe. Memory of the events and individuals has been embodied in a vast array of material objects, images, rituals, traditions and texts. Yet little critical attention has been paid to the process by which enduring assumptions about the significance of the Reformation came into being.
This project will contribute significantly to the lively critical and theoretical discussion of memory and its formation in past societies. Bringing together historians and literary scholars, it will deploy approaches and methods from a variety of disciplines to forge new insights about the formation and fragmentation of cultural memory. It will illluminate the process by which public and private memory was forged and assess its role in the creation of religious, political and social consensus, conflict and identity.
The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's protest against the Church of Rome in 1517, which falls in the middle of the project, provides an opportunity to examine the role of the Reformation in shaping modern historical consciousness, and to interrogate its lasting legacies. In its focus upon the agency and influence exercised by the public and private, official and unofficial memory of past events, the project raises questions of enduring concern and contemporary relevance.
Image: Medal design for the 300th anniversary of the Reformation, 1817, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago.