Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

The Time of Reformation

Media Configurations of a Historical Event and Its History

Dr. Marcus Sandl


The topic of this research project is the “epochal turn” in the history of the Reformation. The Reformation according to our thesis represents such an epochal turn in two different respects: It marked a turn toward temporality in the way that theological knowledge was formed following Luther’s “Posting of the Theses” in 1517 , thus signaling a break with medieval tradition in the name of “divine writ” (Gotteswort). Contrary to accepted ways of preserving and repeating theological knowledge, the Reformation combined the truth of divine writ with the epistemology of the event, particularly the confessional event. Theological truth was thus provided with a temporal index that had to be repeatedly recovered on the level of (self-) observation. In that context--and this is the second aspect of the Reformation’s “epochal turn”--a turn toward the temporality of historical occurrences emerged in the course of the Reformation. This temporality was in turn processed by the permanent reporting and observing of the self made possible by the technology of printing. History became a constitutive aspect of theological claims to validity.

In the context of the 16th-century transformation in the history of the media, the epochal turn can thus be described more comprehensively--as an epistemological principle of the Reformation. Proceeding from the (re-)discovery of divine writ, the Reformation constructed itself as a historical event, observing itself from the standpoint of an event and coming to a final historiographical conclusion in 1580 with the Book of Concord (Konkordienbuch). On the basis of sources in theology, epoch-diagnoses and historiography, our project develops a new approach to the history of the Reformation between 1517 and 1580 in focusing on the mediality and semantics of historical epochs.