The Reformation of Feeling: Shaping the Religious Emotions in Early Modern Germany

Synopsis

In The Reformation of Feeling , Susan Karant-Nunn looks beyond and beneath the formal doctrinal and moral demands of the Reformation in Germany to examine the emotional tenor of the programs that the emerging creeds-revised Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism/Reformed theology-developed for their members. As revealed by the surviving sermons from this period, preaching clergy of each faith both explicitly and implicitly provided their listeners with distinct models of a mood to be cultivated. To encourage their parishioners to make an emotional investment in their faith, all three drew upon rhetorical elements that were already present in late medieval Catholicism and elevated them into confessional touchstones. Looking at archival materials containing direct references to feeling, Karant-Nunn focuses on treatments of death and sermons on the Passion. She amplifies these sources with considerations of the decorative, liturgical, musical, and disciplinary changes that ecclesiastical leaders introduced during the period from the late fifteenth to the end of the seventeenth century. Within individual sermons, Karant-Nunn also examines topical elements-including Jews at the crucifixion, the Virgin Mary's voluminous weeping below the Cross, and struggles against competing denominations-that were intended to arouse particular kinds of sentiment. Finally, she discusses surviving testimony from the laity in order to assess at least some Christians' reception of these lessons on proper devotional feeling. This book is exceptional in its presentation of a cultural rather than theological or behavioral study of the broader movement to remake Christianity. As Karant-Nunn conclusively demonstrates, in the eyes of the Reformation's formative personalities strict adherence to doctrine and upright demeanor did not constitute an adequate piety. The truly devout had to engage their hearts in their faith.

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