Glauco Schettini’s article, “Confessional Modernity: Nicola Spedalieri, the Catholic Church and the French Revolution, c.1775-1800,” published in Modern Intellectual History (Cambridge University Press), reconsiders the Catholic reaction to the French Revolution and more broadly to the emergence of what we usually term “modernity.”
The article focuses on Nicola Spedalieri’s On the Rights of Man (1791) and on the debate that its publication sparked in Italy and beyond. The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and the polarization of public opinion between the supporters of the new regime and its relentless opponents convinced Spedalieri (1740-95), a well-reputed Catholic theologian, of the need to find a via media between these two extremes. Assuming the re-Christianization of the postrevolutionary world as his goal, Spedalieri argued that some aspects of revolutionary political culture (representative institutions, the idea of a social contract, the notion of human rights) were acceptable from a Catholic standpoint as long as the revolutionaries, in turn, agreed to abandon secularization and to uphold the traditional confessional organization of the state, recognizing Catholicism as the official state religion. It was not modernity itself, Spedalieri claimed, that should be rejected, but secularization, for a different modernity from that conceived by the revolutionaries was possible—a confessional modernity, combining revolutionary politics and confessional states. Far from gaining immediate acceptance, Spedalieri’s ideas were harshly criticized during the 1790s and then set aside by the triumph of reactionary Catholicism during the Restoration. However, they resurfaced later in the nineteenth century and ultimately played a decisive role in the development of the church’s attitudes toward modern culture, for they carved a path for Catholics to fight secularization from within and to reshape modernity accordingly.A free online version of the article is available here.
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The 2o11 conference was held to mark the 500th anniversary of the famous King James Bible (first published in 1611), but Wabuda’s essay entitled “‘A Day after Doomsday’: Cranmer and the Bible Translations of 1530s” discussed earlier trends in Bible translation in England. The King James version relied upon these earlier translations, especially because of the work of the great translator William Tyndale (d. 1536). Wabuda reports that one goal of the essay was to understand the problems of making a good Bible translation in English, but she also hopes that it helps to illuminate another issue: that the Bible was originally intended as a teaching tool. Although modern readers might think of a a Bible rendered into English as an opportunity for personal reading and study, this was not the intention of the translators. In fact, King Henry VIII and archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer both believed in withholding the Bible from the people if they would not behave: “Scripture was one of the great treasures of the church, but because it was so sacred (like the sacrament of the altar) it would be withheld from people depending on the circumstances.”
The Roland H. Bainton prize is given in memory of the great Reformation historian who taught at Yale University. Susan Wabuda laments never having met Bainton, who she identifies as one of the first scholars to seriously explore the role of women in the Reformation.
Congratulations once more to Dr. Wabuda and the team behind this great volume!
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“Passover and Easter: A Polemical Encounter” is an exhibit currently open at Walsh Library in the O’Hare Special Collection room, mounted by Dr. Magda Teter Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies and Professor of History. This exhibit explores the history of Easter and Passover through manuscripts, books, and ephemera, with a particular emphasis on the biblical texts related to the holidays and several Haggadot, the sacred text read during the Passover Seder. Among the items on display are engravings from two editions of the famous 15th century world chronicle that portray the bleeding of a child, with images of Jews as grotesque characters, the Easter issue of an Italian magazine, La difesa della razza (The Defense of Race), from 1940 that once again return to the theme of blood libel; German currency from 1922 that celebrates burning Jews, and an 1884 parody of the Haggadah by German artist Carl Maria Seyppel. Tom Stoelker wrote an in depth article about the exhibit which can be read by following this link to the Center of Medieval Studies Venerable Blog.
Dr. Magda Teter
A Dramatic Reading of Burning Words: A History Play by Peter Wortsman
Dr. Magda Teter will be involved in Burning Words: A History Play, offering scholarly commentary during the multimedia reading. The play is about about zealotry, censorship, and religious tolerance, and recounts the moment in history when “Johannes Reuchlin, a humanist Christian jurist, clashed with Johannes Pfefferkorn, a Jewish butcher converted to Christianity and a willing tool of the Dominican Order in their quest to burn Jewish books. ” Dr. Teter recently gave a lecture entitled “From Friendship to Hatred: The Catholic Church and the Jews” at the University of New Mexico as part of the AJS Distinguished Lecture Series.
The play will take place on April 3, 2016 at 2:30 pm at The Center for Jewish History (15 West 16th Street New York, New York 10011)
Ticket Info: $15 general; $10 Leo Baeck Institute / Center for Jewish History members