Escaping the Reformation in the Republic of Letters: Confessional Silence in Latin Emblem Books

Arnoud Silvester Quartus Visser

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Recent scholarship has advanced paradoxical conclusions about the relationship between Renaissance humanism and the Reformation. While humanist techniques are considered to have played an instrumental role in the development, spread, and implementation of the Reformation, the humanist community is generally regarded as a supra-confessional “Republic of Letters.” This article addresses this paradox by looking at the religious language in Latin emblem books. These highly popular works emphasized a personal, intellectual spirituality, and expressed reservations against institutionalised religion. They have often been interpreted ideologically, as a humanistic, irenical response to the religious turmoil. When read in the context of the authors' and readers' practical interests, however, they reveal a more pragmatic strategy. Rather than promoting religious ideals, they used an a-confessional language to accommodate religious pluriformity. Examples of the reception by individual readers, e.g., in alba amicorum, further exemplify how confessional silence served as a communicative strategy in the Republic of Letters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-167
JournalChurch History and Religious Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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