UA Graduate Students Present Summer Series on the Reformation and Social Justice

Extra Information: The exhibit “After 500 Years: Print and Propaganda in the Reformation” will be shown in Special Collections from Aug. 7-Dec. 22. 

This August, graduate students in the University of Arizona Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies will present the Division’s Summer Lecture Series, titled “The Aftermath of the Reformation: Women, Minorities, Refugees, and the Demand for Social Justice.”

The series has been presented annually with St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church for at least 25 years. The lectures are held four consecutive Sundays in August at 10:15 a.m. in the Bloom Music Center at St. Philip’s, located at 4440 N. Campbell Ave. These lectures are open to the public and free of charge.

The 2017 series is part of a year’s worth of programming offered by the University of Arizona in observation of the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation.

Susan C. Karant-Nunn, emerita director of the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies and Regents' Professor of History, says that the Protestant Reformation and its aftermath in the 16th and 17th centuries offer fascinating parallels to questions that presently engage the public.

“The question of the status and treatment of women and minorities in society, and the multi-faceted problem of the relationship between religion and the call for social justice, most prominently voiced by the peasants during the Reformation era, is no less urgent today than it was in the 16th century,” Karant-Nunn said. “And the split of Western Christianity as a result of the Protestant Reformation created religious refugees all over early modern Europe, a familiar problem today as well.”

The Division, which is the UA center for graduate study of late medieval and early-modern Europe, 1400-1700, attracts and graduates some of the best scholars in this field in the country. The total number of students in the program, who are officially enrolled in the Department of History, range from eight to 12, allowing for a tight-knit community to form.

“Our students are very bright and have tremendous potential, which they begin to show us the moment they hit the ground,” said Karant-Nunn.

The students are drawn to the UA because of the excellence of the program.

"I chose the UA for my graduate work because of the reputation of the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies," said Annie Morphew, who is working on her Ph.D. degree. "It's rare in the U.S. to find a school where there are so many professors and graduate students working on the early-modern period, let alone the Reformation."

“I came to the UA specifically to work with Professors Susan Karant-Nunn and Ute Lotz-Heumann, whose reputations are such that back in my native Canada, professors coast to coast recommended that if I wanted to do doctoral work on the Reformation, I needed to apply to the UA,” said doctoral student Adam Hough.

Graduate student Rachel Small adds, “The Division is led by some of the foremost scholars in the field whose support and guidance are exceptional. Not only does the Division provide fascinating courses on the early modern era each semester, but it is also unique in its concentration of early modernist scholars who are pushing our field in compelling new directions.”

In the rigorous program, students are required to read Latin and to speak and read German and French. The students also study and conduct research abroad, ideally for an academic year.

Karant-Nunn says that the travel is essential for developing language fluency and for capturing the “atmosphere” of the place of study. “There are cultural assumptions and behaviors that are retained until today.”

“I think of culture as including a perception of space,” added Ute Lotz-Heumann, director of the Division and the Heiko A. Oberman Professor of Late Medieval and Reformation History. “When I explain to students that a reasonably sized city in early modern Europe was 2,000 people, jaws drop. When you travel to city centers, you can actually see what that means. It’s important to have that visual and spatial experience.”

The Summer Lecture Series
Small will kick off the Summer Lecture Series on August 6th with her talk “Reforming the Virgin, the Wife, and the Widow: Changing Visions of Womanhood in the Sixteenth Century.”

“Luther’s teachings created a shift in the expectations for how women were to display their piety and their femininity,” Small said. “Luther called for the dissolution of monasteries and convents, he emphasized the religious importance of the estate of marriage, and he called for clergy to marry, thus altering the space for women’s involvement in the church and community.”

Small’s lecture ties into her research on how religious women, namely nuns, in the Holy Roman Empire played a role in constructing a distinct concept of womanhood and female piety in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Morphew will give the Aug. 13th talk, “’Strangers in a Strange Land’: Religious Refugees and Exiles in the Reformation.”

Morphew studies the changing landscape of religious belief in the early Reformation and the impact of these changes on women and gender. She explains that her presentation on refugees and exiles complements her broader research interests.

 “As exiles move throughout Europe, fleeing persecution for their faith, they are forced to construct new communities in new places. The impact of these upheavals and restructurings on gender roles and women are issues that interest me,” Morphew said.

Master’s student Benjamin Miller will give the Aug. 20th talk, “’We take it for granted that you will release us from serfdom as true Christians’: The Reformation and the Peasants.”

Miller researches exile communities and mass migration in Eastern and Central Europe during the 17th and early 18th century. He is interested in borders studies, particularly the movement of people and ideas, including religious ideas, from one culture to another. 

“For a long time, I have been interested in cultural cross-pollination, in the way that people and ideas take on new shapes as they cross borders and fit into new situations, but what really 'hooked' me was when I started thinking about the intermediary institutions and personages involved in this process,” said Miller. “My favorite intermediary institution is the clergy. These folk – always men during this period – acted as intermediaries between town-folk and the wider world.”

Hough will present the final talk on Aug. 27, titled “Persecution and Tolerance: How Anabaptists, Jews, and Roma (‘Gypsies’) fared in the Reformation Era.” In the talk, Hough will consider how religious and ethnic 'outsiders' got caught up in the wake of the changes brought about by the Protestant Reformation.

Hough’s dissertation research looks at how a community of Protestant preachers in Augsburg, Germany, tried and failed to find a way to peacefully share that city with their Catholic neighbors.

Karant-Nunn and Lotz-Heumann, who will contextualize and comment on each of the lectures, think it is important to provide this type of experience to students. Lotz-Heumann says that while many students are trained in how to write well, they can find public speaking more challenging. Moreover, she considers it an “obligation” for academics to convey their research in an accessible manner to the public.

Karant-Nunn adds, “They gain experience with sensing out what would be most meaningful to the audience.”

Published Date: 

07/25/2017 - 11:14am