Core Program, 2009–10

Cultures of Communication, Theologies of Media in Early Modern Europe and Beyond: Theology as Media Theory

—organized by Center/Clark Professors Christopher Wild, University of California, Los Angeles/University of Chicago, and Ulrike Strasser, University of California, Irvine

The early modern period has long been recognized as a time of revolutionary change in the uses of media and forms of communication.  Much attention has been focused on the history of print and the book in particular.  Without questioning the importance of this technology- and book-oriented perspective, this series of conferences considers print media alongside a range of other media with which they interacted (“multimediality”) and re-approaches the history of media in early modern Europe from an original and timely perspective. It resists the technological focus and teleological pull of the Gutenberg galaxy and concentrates instead on the powerful religious and theological currents informing communication and media. We suggest that the history of media in early modern Europe is best understood in its longue duree from the sixteenth through the eighteenth century and in reference to the long-term aftershocks of the Reformation and the profound transformation of both media and mediation it set in motion. The sixteenth-century reformers not only revolutionized the use of media, they also formulated their own theories about media and communication, addressing issues that remain of concern to modern media theorists who, however, rarely consider their theological precursors.

Protestants and Catholic reformers, albeit in confessionally distinct ways, responded to the same cultural crisis in mediation between God and humanity, as well as within the community of believers, particularly as the latter began expanding rapidly with the onset of global evangelization.  Each camp developed theories and practices of optimizing ‘vertical communication’ with the divine and ‘horizontal communication’ among humanity.  Consequently, the recourse to the different theologies of early modern reform can help us examine the complex and competing media cultures of the time and what helped drive technological changes. The transformation of media had a persistent corollary in the critique of mediation.  Once unleashed, this critique would not go away, but would be reformulated throughout the early modern period and beyond, and in a host of contexts within and beyond the religious domain.

Against this backdrop, the conference cycle takes as its starting point the conjunction of Reformation theology and the rise of new media in the sixteenth century to then traces the ripple effects of these phenomena in the following centuries.  The sites of investigation include European cultures, “New World” spaces, and the trans-oceanic communication networks linking them.

Conference 1: Theology as Media Theory
December 4–5, 2009

The first conference takes the historiographical commonplace “no Reformation without print” and proceeds from its chiastic inversion “no print without the Reformation” to highlight the importance of theology to the fortunes of print and, more broadly, to the formation of media cultures throughout the early modern period.  At the center of the Reformation was a crisis of mediation to which it responded and which it helped perpetuate.  Mediation was thought to be fundamentally corrupted and corruptive and hence in need of reform.  To name only a few examples, priesthood, liturgy, worship, and scripture had all been perverted and had to be restored to their original state of ‘pure communication.’  Consequently, media were as much instruments of reform as they were its targets.

Session 1: Theology and Mediation
Ulrike Strasser, University of California,  Irvine

Steven Mailloux, Loyola Marymount University
“TheoRhetoric as Media Theory”

Lee Palmer Wandel, University of Wisconsin
“Absence and Presence: The Implications of Incarnation for Cultural Theory”

Jonathan Sheehan, University of California, Berkeley
“Theology and the Form of Polemic”

Julia Reinhard Lupton, University of California, Irvine
“Shakespeare and Religion: A New Media Inventory”

Session 2: Religious Media
David Sabean, University of California, Los Angeles

Niklaus Largier, University of California, Berkeley
“The Media of Prayer”

Bernhard Siegert, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar
Curtains and Trompe-l’Oeils: Media of Excessive Mimesis as Agents of the Presence of Blood and Flesh

Walter S. Melion, Emory University
Pictorial Artifice as Marian Devotion in the Jesuit Cult of the Virgin

Session 3: Alternative Theologies of Media
Nancy McLoughlin, University of California, Irvine

Marcus Sandl, Universität Konstanz
“‘Here I stand…’: Face-to-face Communication and Print Media in the Early Reformation”

Helmut Puff, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
“Mediated Immediacies in Thomas Müntzer’s Theology”

Thomas Lolis, Ahmanson-Getty Fellow, UCLA
“The Heavenly Cloud Now Circling: Jane Leade and the Trap of Theological Mediation”

Conference 2: Media of Reform between the Local and the Global
January 22–23, 2010

The second conference focuses on the unprecedented communicational challenges that arose from early modern Europe’s encounter with a larger world through the twin enterprises of global evangelization and colonial expansion. Here we analyze the multi-layered transformation of Europe’s media cultures that resulted from the need to communicate across greater distances and reach growing and culturally and linguistically diverse target audiences: from the emergence of new networks of correspondence, enabled by new maritime routes, to new practices and theories of translation between languages as well as cultures. In keeping with the overall approach, particular attention is paid to the religious and theological underpinnings of the workings of global media and mediators.

Session 1: Religious Networks and the Early Modern Global Village
Christopher Wild, UCLA/University of Chicago

Luke Clossey, Simon Fraser University
“Early Modern Catholicism and the Global Village”

Markus Friedrich, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
“Communication and Religious Governance: The Case of the Jesuits”

Renate Dürr, Universität Kassel
“Early Modern Translation Theories as Mission Theories: A Case Study of José de Acosta De Procuranda Indorum Salute (1588)”

Session 2: Mediators and Messages between Old and New Worlds
Heidi Tinsman, University of California, Irvine

Mary C. Fuller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“Preachers, Voyages, Texts: Religious Professionals on Elizabethan Ships”

Andrew Redden, Queen’s University Belfast
“Divine Messengers and Divine Messages in Early Modern Hispanic America”

Christian Kiening, Universität Zürich
“Testamentary Writing between the Worlds”

Session 3: The Mediality and Confessionalization of Space and Time
Randolph C. Head, UC Riverside

Carina L. Johnson, Pitzer College
“Mein lieber Christian groß India”: Early Print Allegories of the Indies

Benjamin Schmidt, University of Washington
“Mediating Malabar: Geography in a Post-Reformation World”

Susanna Burghartz, Universität Basel
“Apocalyptic Times and Colonial Rivalries: The Strait of Magellan as a Site of Mediality (1600)”

Conference 3: Multimediality: Print Culture in Context
March 5–6, 2010

The penultimate conference returns to the history of print to show what can be gained by situating print media within a broader landscape of mediality and intermediality. In the early modern period the printed message was almost always complemented by the spoken word, just as the image was complemented by its written variant. When Luther translated and edited the Gantze Heilige Schrift, one of his intentions was to simulate and even restore orality through this printing project. A similar motive of restoring and renewing orality can be discerned in eighteenth-century poetry. In exploring the intersections between orality and print one can move beyond the dichotomy of spoken versus written word that often still structures accounts of the “advent of print” towards a more complex and historically dynamic picture of intermedial interactions.

Session I: Orality and the Culture of Print
Christopher Wild, UCLA/University of Chicago

Susan C. Karant-Nunn, University of Arizona
“’We believe in one God’: Hymns as Indoctrination and Discipline in the Early Modern Churches”

Daniel Weidner, Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin
“Reading Images, Printing Voices: Simulation of Media and Epistemic Reflection in German Baroque Literature”

Session 2: Fortunes of Print
Malina Stefanovska, UCLA

Jane O. Newman, University of California, Irvine
“Mediating between High and Low: Astrology, Theology, and the Question of the Popular Image”

Tom Conley, Harvard University
“Folly and Fortune: On Rabelais, Pantagrueline Prognostication (1553)”

Session 3: Print and/as Art
Julia Lupton, UC Irvine

Celeste Brusati, University of Michigan
“Print Matters: Facticity and Duplicity in Trompe l’Oeil”

Amy Powell, University of California, Irvine
“A Failure to Communicate: Hercules Segers, Iconoclasm, and the Printed Painting”

Conference 4: Religious Media and the Birth of Aesthetics
April 23–24, 2010

The concluding conference tests the hypothesis that aesthetics, which emerged as a discipline in the eighteenth century, has to be understood as a theory of artistic mediality that assimilated and secularized the media-theoretical positions articulated by the Protestant reformers. Not coincidentally, the first theorists of the beaux arts—one need only to think of Baumgarten and Kant—came from religious milieus hostile to art and were thus particularly attuned to the specific character and power of the different artistic media. Just as the Enlightenment theater reform in Germany, France, and England can be understood as an internalization of anti-theatrical sentiment, eighteenth-century aesthetics must be considered as a theoretical response to the Protestant reformers’ deep distrust of anything fictional and beautiful. So if this hypothesis holds true, the emergent discipline of aesthetics reveals itself to be the true heir to the Reformation’s theologies of media.

Session 1: Religious Aesthetics, Aesthetic Religion
James Steintrager, UCI

Dorothea von Mücke, Columbia University
“The Birth of Aesthetic Experience from the Spirit of True Christianity”

Rüdiger Campe, Yale University
“Lux Aesthetica? Persuasio Aesthetica: The Resurrection of Rhetoric as Aesthetic according to Baumgarten”

Peter Schnyder, Université de Neuchâtel
Awe, Power, Horror, Love: Burke and Kant on the Aesthetics of Religion

Ian Balfour, York University
“On the Judaic and the Sublime: Hegel among Others”

Session 2: Religious Poetics of Narrating and Listening
Ulrike Strasser, UCI

Andrew Dell’Antonio, University of Texas, Austin
“Listening as Spiritual Practice in Early Modern Rome”

John H. Smith, University of California, Irvine
“Vitalizing deus and natura in German Romanticism and Idealism”

Session 3: Aesthetic Formation of the Religious and the Secular
Joseph Jenkins, UC Irvine

Brendan Prawdzik, Ahmanson-Getty Fellow, UCLA
“Miltonic Gestures: Spiritual Authenticity and the Acting Body in Seventeenth-Century Polemical Writing”

Jordana Rosenberg, Ahmanson-Getty Fellow, UCLA
“Enthusiasm and the Hermeneutics of Accumulation”