The objective of Manifestations of Solitude: Withdrawal and Engagement in the long seventeenth-century is to demonstrate how the creation of zones of unworldliness within the world structures re-ligious practice. We will examine withdrawal in its historical settings and uncover the facetted na-ture of this phenomenon in the seventeenth-century religious culture, thus offering insights and tools for a better understanding of the representation of religious experience in European culture.
Working across cultural and confessional boundaries, the project explores appropriations of the appeal that the Christian be in the world but not of the world: in texts, architecture, images and mu-sic, and it examines the ways in which these media are employed to prompt and sustain with¬drawal from the world. The project focuses on ten institutional social units (e.g. the abbey, the Konventikel, the household), which manifest solitude in different ways. It examines such units through ten exem-plary places (e.g. Herrnhut, Saint-Cyr) and their cultural and reli¬gious life, drawing on materials such as architectural plans, interior decoration, treatises on theology and aesthetics, letters, diaries, epitaphs, emblems, portraits, devotional images, sermons and musical pieces.
The backbone of the project is an innovative strategy for interdisciplinary analysis which traces the generation of a symbolically charged space around religious withdrawals. With this analytical tool we will examine how symbols of ‘world’, ‘solitude’ and the demarcation between them are materialized in forms ranging from material culture (architecture, furnishing), via artistic, perfor-mative expressions (devotional images, musical pieces) to literary topoi and metaphors and the in-fluence on such forms of contemporary aesthetic sensibilities. The project examines the cultivation of the religious self: shaping a sym¬bolically charged space – and shaped in turn by this space.
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