FRAL - Appel Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

Aesthetics of Protestantism in Scandinavia from the 19th to the 21st century – ProtAestics

Submission summary

The project aims to analyze the significance of Protestantism for the aesthetics of Nordic cultures. The Reformation was established in the Nordic countries statewide within a few decades and Protestantism is still or was very until recently institutionalized as the state religion. The fundamental thesis of the proposed project is that the Reformation was not only one of the most important political factors in the political, social, and ecclesiastical history of Scandinavia, but that it has also had a deep and lasting impact on cultural life in all its forms. These areas include literature, the visual arts, music, both high and popular culture, cultural practices and performances. The impacts concern content and form and can be described experimentally in five principles of an aesthetics of Protestantism. We might detect a predilection for 1. simplicity, 2. logocentrism, 3. a tension between pronounced individualism and collectivism, 4. a specific kind of relatedness to the world, and finally 5. a commitment to a Protestant ethic. The religious aspects of a culture's aesthetic ideas are not limited to works of art that are embedded in a religious context (such as church architecture, devotional literature, religious painting) or that address religion (such as novels or films about conflicts of faith), but concern the aesthetic production of a culture as a whole, especially when it has been determined by a hegemonic denomination for many centuries, as was the case with Protestantism in Scandinavia. These dynamics between religion and culture are not yet researched sufficiently: for too long, literary and cultural studies remained “religion-blind” (I. Hammar).
The project is centered around six case studies that cover important aspects of the sketched context. They are conceived in a manner of interaction that helps to generate the knowledge necessary to test the concept of the five principles and to follow them in diachronic and synchronic elaboration and variation. On this basis, the two PIs will work theoretically on the question of an aesthetics of Protestantism. As experienced scholars, they will also conduct two general conceptual studies with a special focus on (a) imaginations of collective formation (dannelse/bildning) and (b) forms of individual formation. Two post-doc projects will analyse in historical depth (c) Protestant traces in non-religious modernist poetry and (d) focus on the different counterprojects to Protestantism in Scandinavia, particularly occultism as means of subverting dominating aesthetic paradigms. Two PhD projects shall address more period-specific subjects: (e) the impact of the ethics of work in Scandinavian workers’ literature and (f) the impact of Protestant aesthetics in film.

Project coordination

Thomas Mohnike (MONDES GERMANIQUES ET NORD-EUROPEENS (EA 1341 - UR 1341 depuis 01.01.2020))

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


EG MONDES GERMANIQUES ET NORD-EUROPEENS (EA 1341 - UR 1341 depuis 01.01.2020)
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Skandinavisches Seminar

Help of the ANR 811,948 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: April 2022 - 36 Months

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