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Melanchthon’s Authorizing of Luther: An Examination of the Narrative Origins of Sixteenth-Century Historical Life-Writing.

ALDERSON, MICHAEL,PETER (2014) Melanchthon’s Authorizing of Luther: An Examination of the Narrative Origins of Sixteenth-Century Historical Life-Writing. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



For many, the Reformation schism from the Roman Church represented a heretical act and a break from an institution with a well-established historical understanding of itself. Early Protestants developed a representation of their history in sophisticated narratives that justified their action and countered the charges of heresy levelled at them; fledgling Protestant history argued its theological orthodoxy by presenting its break from the abuses of the past as a return to the ancient Church’s purity. These narratives indicate that the self-perception of the movements was tied closely to their major proponents; as such, the histories of these few individuals became crucial to an understanding of the movements themselves, and the diverse narrative forms, adopted by sixteenth-century Protestants in numerous chronicles, biographies, hagiographies and sermons relating to Luther’s life, clearly show the quest for a suitable narrative form to make sense of the Reformation. Through an examination of a largely neglected master text of the Lutherbild, Melanchthon’s Historia de vita et actis Reverendiss. viri D. Mart. Lutheri (Erfurt: Gervasius Stürmer, 1548), this thesis identifies the nature of the narrative models used to represent Luther, and thereby recreates the historical consciousness of his first biographer. Given the ‘good’ Catholic backgrounds of the first reformers along with the need to justify the orthodoxy of the Reformation, this analysis shows how the historical consciousness present in early histories demonstrates an orthodoxy and inheritance from well-established narrative models to represent the leaders of Protestantism. Simultaneously, this analysis indicates how in adopting various aspects of the life-writing tradition and through careful selection, Melanchthon establishes an authorized and distinctly Wittenberg image of Luther that has dictated the subsequent understanding of the man and his movement, and that a clearly individual-based and biographical approach has in fact shaped the self-image and understanding of history.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:"Luther" "Melanchthon" "Reformation" "Life-Writing"
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Modern Languages and Cultures, School of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 Apr 2014 11:22

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