Lutheran Unorthodoxy: Controversial Academic Networks, c. 1560-1621

In line with ongoing attempts to reevaluate the period known as „Lutheran Orthodoxy“ (1580-1700), my dissertation examines Lutheran intellectual culture around 1600, focusing specifically on a network of professors based at Helmstedt and Rostock Universities. Johannes Caselius (1533-1615), the center of this network, left behind a massive correspondence collection, now held at the HAB. While funded by the German-American Fulbright Commission, I am analyzing this correspondence and bringing it into conversation with Caselius’s humanist scholarship, as well as with the Hofmannstreit (1596-1601), a controversy at Helmstedt over the character of human reason and the boundary between theology and philosophy. As part of the project, I am developing a database of Caselius’s correspondence, to aid and advance research into this understudied figure.

Investigating Caselius’s intellectual network, I argue, can trace the development, spread, and consequences of „unorthodox“ ideas. „Unorthodoxy,“ as I use it, refers to the intellectual-social space between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Whereas heterodoxy is categorically other than orthodoxy, unorthodoxy may appear merely unusual, strange, or perplexing. Thus Lutheran professors could espouse unorthodox opinions without necessarily destroying their reputation for orthodoxy. Uncovering Lutheran unorthodoxy reveals that the confessional character of Lutheranism not only allowed for but even catalyzed intellectual diversity.

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