Reformation Transformation of Visual Culture (seminar)

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For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a late-spring 2005 seminar.

Recent scholarship has complicated our ideas of what constituted the "iconic" in post-Reformation England—the "image-mongering" of Catholics may have been as much a Protestant invention as a reality, and certainly it could be argued that Protestants turned the idea of The Word into an icon itself. Gathering participants from the fields of history, religion, art history, literature, and cultural studies, this five-week seminar reopened inquiries into the nature of the Protestant reformations and their impacts on visual cultures in England. The seminar began by assessing the actual nature and depth of the hostility to or discomfort with visual representation in Protestant theological texts. Participants observed the transformations of visual and representational culture, reading closely the theatrical, religious, and cultural literatures, and studying the iconoclastic campaigns through the more purely visual media: paintings, monumental and funerary statuary, and graphic design in books both secular and sacred. The seminar’s brief was to map what are undeniable changes in visual culture over two centuries and to ascertain what aspect of these can be attributed to theological teachings and which to broader issues of early modern social change: early modern governmental innovations in finance and censorship, the rise of religious sectarianism, the advent of print, the rapid development of the sciences, or the financial restructuring of gentry and aristocratic classes.

Director: Lori Anne Ferrell is Professor of Reformation and Early Modern Studies at Claremont Graduate University and the Claremont School of Theology. She is the author of Government by Polemic (1996) and co-editor of The English Sermon Revised (1999) and is currently working on Graspable Art: Secular Teaching and the Protestant Imagination, 1580–1630.