Peter Erickson: Religious Conversion in the Late Enlightenment

Peter Erickson
Doctoral Candidate, Germanic Studies, University of Chicago:

I spent three months in Gotha as a Herzog-Ernst research fellow, writing a dissertation chapter about how Pietist theologians, and especially August Hermann Francke, justified the republication of Catholic, Calvinist, and heteorodox conversion narratives.

Why, Francke sought to answer, should a Lutheran reader be interested in the lives of saints?  What exactly were Lutheran readers supposed to gain from these Sammelbiographien?  It turns out to be a deeply complicated question — and one that illuminates the function of narratives of religious conversion in the eighteenth century.

The chapter is part of a dissertation on the concept of conversion in the novels of Wieland, Schiller and Goethe.

My first article, “Die Inszenierung von Konversion: Friedrich Schillers Der Geisterseher,” will appear this year in an edited volume, Figuren der Konversion, from Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag.  Another article — on the concept of conversion in the anthropological writings of Schiller’s former professor, the philosopher Jacob Friedrich Abel — is also due in 2013.

When I wasn’t in the library, I enjoyed jogging through the mustard fields and woods north of town.

I am now a research fellow at the Klassik Stiftung in Weimar.

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