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Martha G. Newman, Chair BUR 529, Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-7737

Fall 2008

R S 383 • Germanic Reform and Atlantic Culture

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
44748 W
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
CBA 4.336

Course Description

What is Pietism? What is piety? Who are the pious? What formsspiritual, material, physicaldoes Pietism take? Scholarship on the early modern Germanic Reform and its Atlantic extensions has traditionally concentrated on the text-based history of early and late Luther, as well as his most learned and well-known predecessors and followers. After an initial discussion of the spiritualist and "mystical" writing of early Luther, we will chart the trajectory, critique, and impact of this and other crucial reformed textual traditions on the complex (if obscure) origins, extraordinary cultural permeability, and transnational social, scientific, artisanal, philosophical, economic and musical influences of what has come to be called Germanic Pietism on the spread of Atlantic Protestantism, with particular emphasis on the Germanic, French, and British-American laity.
Pietism has been termed, too reductively perhaps, a religion of the heartand has been used to trivialize and deride all sorts of religious enthusiasmbecause it privileged the individuation and interiority of personal religious experience of both scriptural text and the book of nature in a fallen, postlapsarian world. At the same time, Pietism is also understood as an expansive religious and theological movement which bridged the Reformations of the sixteenth century and the Enlightenment. Some have challenged the very notion of Pietism, asserting that it does not exist as an historical reality because the term itself has been so loosely applied to a broad mixture of many reformed reactions to the de-sanctification of the world that it loses all analytical integrity. Others have agreed with this criticism of broad use, arguing that Pietism begins quite late in the game, with the word's initial use by the theologian Jakob Spener (1635-1705). For many historians, questions remain as to whether and how Pietism can be applied or if it is an anachronistic term when assessing pre-Spener phenomena.
We will evaluate these controversies and explore research opportunities made available by recent trends in the historiography which analyzes Pietism as an early, transnational, and trans-confessional phenomenon. As such, the course will include English sectarianism, the Dutch further Reformation, Zinzindorfs Moravians and related sects in Europe and the Middle Colonies, the Ephrata (PA) Martyrs Mirror of 1748, and the influence of Methodism and pietistic movements on ideas about race and slavery. Pietism will be compared with Puritanism, Paracelsism, French Jansenism and above all Quietism (with special emphasis on the Society of Friends in England and America).

Grading Policy

Readings will comprise roughly half the course; the rest will be devoted to student research papers. One 25 page paper will constitute the bulk of each student's final grade.


Primary readings will be in English and will include, among others, Kaspar von Schwenckfeld (1489-1561); Paracelsus (c. 1493-1541), Valentin Weigel (1533-88) Johann Arndt (1555-1621), Jakob Boehme (1575-1624); Gerrard Winstanley (1609-76); and George Fox (1624-91). Readings will comprise roughly half the course; the rest will be devoted to student research papers. One 25 page paper will constitute the bulk of each student's final grade.


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