“Feeling and Norm”: University of Halle organises International Congress for Pietism Studies
Was a pious Christian in the 18th century allowed to simply feel or were there limits to what he could feel – a kind of emotional police or norm that intervened when he felt too much or the wrong thing? Did feeling and norm contradict one another? The Congress for Pietism Studies, which will take place in Halle from 26 to 29 August 2018, is devoted to these and other topics. 150 participants from Europe, Australia and North America are expected to attend. The event is being organised by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Pietism Research at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in cooperation with the Francke Foundations and the Historical Commission for the Study of Pietism.
Emotion is in great demand, both in life and in the sciences, as well as in the historical study of emotions, whose proposals are now to be taken up and enrichingly played back by pietism research. Pietism has been and still is often described as a religion of emotions, but research has yet to sufficiently investigate it from this perspective.
In the 18th century, Pietism developed into Protestantism’s most important reform movement. Central to the forerunners of Pietism was to identify a lack of piety, both in the heart and in practice, among theologians, clergy, teachers and the population. At the centre of Pietist reform efforts was the pious subject. „At that time it was completely uncommon to speak about one’s feelings,“ says Dr Christian Soboth of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Pietism Research at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU).
Precisely because the Pietists, whether in Halle, Herrnhut or elsewhere, concentrated on the subject and his feelings, they were criticised by other members of the Lutheran and reformed Protestant communities as being unorthodox. The Pietists countered this criticism, some of which was very strong. „These clashes developed into a discourse on self-understanding about what feeling meant to Pietists and what it was allowed and not allowed to mean. Pietists accordingly tried to organise their emotional life,“ explains Soboth. This pondering about the theory and practice of feeling has always included deliberation about what is permitted and not permitted as well as internal and external norms and standards what and how to feel. The question of how feelings, especially feelings of faith, can be communicated in words and represented in gestures and actions was also important for this discourse, explains Soboth. On the whole, the 18th century was marked by a perpetual negotiation about which feelings were permissible and which were not.
The aim of the congress is to reconstruct, in an interdisciplinary manner, the historical discussions on the relationship between emotion and norm in Pietism. This also includes the question of which authority used which arguments and in which forms and functions to set standards and decide which feelings were accepted and which were rejected. These negotiation processes will be discussed within the context of the conflicting demands of emotion and norm, in theology and piety, pedagogy and education, the arts and philosophy. This will be followed by discussions on the relationship between pietism and gender issues. A special panel will offer young researchers the opportunity to present their current projects to the expert community and to network. New methodological approaches in cultural studies are being tested, as are ways of applying the „digital humanities“. The general topic offers numerous starting points for the entire spectrum of interdisciplinary research on the 18th century.
The congress will kick off on Sunday, 26 August at 5 p.m. with a lecture by Prof. Jacqueline Van Gent from the Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions at the University of Western Australia on „Love, joy and tears. Emotions and Pietism in the early modern world“. In addition to expert lectures, the programme also includes a scientific excursion. Participants will visit the Gleimhaus Literature Museum in Halberstadt and the Klopstockhaus in Quedlinburg. Both cities were important „locations of heart and feeling“ in the 18th century.
The congress is funded by the German Research Foundation DFG. It is taking place with the support of the Francke Foundations in Halle and the Historical Commission for the Study of Pietism.
Feeling and Norm. Pietism and Cultures of Emotion in the Eighteenth Century
Fifth International Congress for Pietism Studies
26 to 29 August 2018
Francke Foundations in Halle
Dr Christian Soboth
Interdisciplinary Centre for Pietism Research
Phone: + 49 345 5523072
Dr Thomas Ruhland
Interdisciplinary Centre for Pietism Research
Phone: + 49 345 5523074