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School of Modern Languages & Cultures: Department of German

Staff in the Department of German

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Mr Michael Alderson

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Martin Luther stands as one of the most written about German figures in history, whose image has been repeatedly used, both positively and negatively, to support two distinct confessional arguments. From the early modern period onwards, Protestant writers have sought to show Luther as a divine agent destined to save Christianity, while Catholic historians have been forced to address and interpret the historical data in order to come to terms with a seemingly successful figure and movement. My interest in Luther and how one figure could be so diversely represented and subjected to narrative ‘spin’ in historical accounts was started as an undergraduate at Durham on the Images of Martin Luther course, and I explored the development and inheritance of confessional narrative traditions in depicting Luther’s life as the subject of an M.A. by research.

I am currently in my third year of a part-time Ph.D. in the German Department and am examining the narrative origins of sixteenth-century life writing, focusing in particular on Philip Melanchthon’s authorizing of Luther’s image in his Historia de vita et actis Reverendiss. viri D. Mart. Lutheri (1548). Through a study of one of the first biographies of Luther, this thesis examines how early Protestants developed a highly historical representation of their movements in sophisticated narratives that sought to justify their course of action and counter the charges of heresy and innovation levelled at them by the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time, the thesis also explores how the Reformation was written up by its first historians, whether there was an established way of recording history at the Reformation, and the rôle that biographical and historical forms played in fledgling Protestant history.

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