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Crisis, Religious Dissents and Female Knowledge in Early Modern Europe

Final Activity Report Summary - CRISIS (Crisis, Religious Dissents and Female Knowledge in Early Modern Europe)

The project studied early modern Catholic reform movements in Europe (namely the so-called quietism) as cultural phenomena that were shaped by female initiative.

The goal has been to examine the nexus of knowledge, power relations and female piety in early modern European societies. By re-evaluating the role women held in mysticism around 1700, and asking about the reasons for the failure of this model of thought and behaviour, the study has arrived at a new understanding of the gendered development of secularisation in European society. The aim of this project has been to situate the cultural history of the late 17th / early 18th century in a concrete social and political context. This implies that the beginning of the Enlightenment can be considered as a moment of confrontation between new ideas and Protestant as well as Catholic traditions. The renegotiation of established gender roles was among the most significant consequences of this confrontation.

The analysis of this renegotiation has been undertaken as a study of the concrete circulation of cultural knowledge:
1) the circulation of manuscripts and printed texts, and
2) tracing notices of particular publication strategies.
This project compared a series of detailed case studies of devote circles by exploring the differences that characterised the development of mystic movements in urban, courtly and provincial environments in France and Germany. It investigated visionary experiences, afflictions motivated by religious belief, doctrinal debate and the writing practices connected to these. Considering new sources from a historical and gender sensitive perspective (and not from an exclusively theological background as it had been done until now), this study has connected and situated separate and local branches with the broader European context.

The results of these investigations have come to light through the organisation of a series of conferences on religious radicalism and writing practices, on women and religious dissent and heresy, and on gender and religious practices, that have addressed methodological questions and discussed significant cases with pairs, gathering the latest research results. These meetings have offered a new understanding of the specific contribution by women to European cultural heritage.