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Reformation of the Senses: The Paradox of Religious Belief and Practice in Germany
by Jacob M. Baum
University of Illinois Press, 2018
Paper: 978-0-252-08399-0 | Cloth: 978-0-252-04219-5 | eISBN: 978-0-252-05093-0
Library of Congress Classification BT741.3.B38 2018
Dewey Decimal Classification 274.306

We see the Protestant Reformation as the dawn of an austere, intellectual Christianity that uprooted a ritualized religion steeped in stimulating the senses--and by extension the faith--of its flock. Historians continue to use the idea as a potent framing device in presenting not just the history of Christianity but the origins of European modernity. Jacob M. Baum plumbs a wealth of primary source material from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to offer the first systematic study of the senses within the religious landscape of the German Reformation. Concentrating on urban Protestants, Baum details the engagement of Lutheran and Calvinist thought with traditional ritual practices. His surprising discovery: Reformation-era Germans echoed and even amplified medieval sensory practices. Yet Protestant intellectuals simultaneously cultivated the idea that the senses had no place in true religion. Exploring this paradox, Baum illuminates the sensory experience of religion and daily life at a crucial historical crossroads. Provocative and rich in new research, Reformation of the Senses reevaluates one of modern Christianity's most enduring myths.

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