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Manifestations of Solitude: Withdrawal and Engagement in the long seventeenth-century

Final Report Summary - MOS (Manifestations of Solitude: Withdrawal and Engagement in the long seventeenth-century)

SOLITUDES: Withdrawal and Engagement in the long Seventeenth Century is a cross-disciplinary project. It involves five scholars (two senior scholars, one postdoc and two PhD-students) with expertise in respectively musical culture, architectural history and art history as well as church history in the Early Modern Age. We have investigated how the biblical demand that the Christian be in the world, but not of the world is manifested at four French Catholic sites and four German Protestant sites. The sites are Duke August the younger of Braunschweig-Lüneburg‘s court in Wolfenbüttel (1644–66), The ‘Irrgarten’ of the Pegnesischer Blumenorden at Nuremberg (1644–81), the Cistercian abbey of La Trappe under A.-J. de Rancé (1664–1700), Mlle de Guise’s salon at Hôtel de Guise (1666–88), Mme de Guise’s courts in Paris and Alençon (1675–96), the community at Die Franckeschen Stiftungen zu Halle under A.H. Francke (1695–1727), The girls’ school, Maison Royale de Saint-Louis (St Cyr) under Mme de Maintenon (1686–1719) and the complex of schools in Die Franckeschen Stiftungen in Glaucha/Halle (1695–1727). For each of these sites the research team has investigated how the dynamic between withdrawal from the world (in retreat, prayer, meditation or otherwise) and engagement with the world (through charitable works, teaching, preaching or otherwise) was manifested, sustained and represented in in texts, images, architecture, music and artefacts.

SOLITUDES is based on an ambition to create a stimulating cross-disciplinary research laboratory where all five scholars work on all sites and all the involved material under the supervision of the respective experts in the team. This work-form means that all the scholars involved have had overall responsibilities and scholarly leadership for some dimensions within the project, regardless of academic hierarchies.

The key overall results of the project have been: 1) The development of site-based analysis as a key to fruitful cross-disciplinary collaboration, 2) The insight that in Early Modern devotional culture withdrawal from the world and engagement with the world are not opposites, but exist on a continuum. On a more specific level we have been able to demonstrate that 1) In an Early Modern context, even the most austere isolation from the world must be seen by others in order to work as an ideal, 2) Withdrawal from the world, for shorter or longer periods of time, is not reserved for the intensely pious, but filters down into general catechetical instructions concerning prayer or retreat and, finally, 3) The dynamic between withdrawal and engagement resurfaces in many central Early Modern phenomena and discussions; this dynamic is one of the motors that drive political discourses, ideas of soul-formation and individual and societal well-being. It comes to the fore in activities related to mission and conversion, erudition, collections of books and artifacts, and it abides by its own stylistic trends and fashions.