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Catholic and Protestant Reformations and the Genealogy of Modernity

Apr 22 2017 10 a.m.—1 p.m.
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Carlos Eire

Yale University

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Open to current graduate students and faculty


At this master class seminar, participants will read and discuss Professor Carlos Eire's essay "Incombustible Weber: How the Protestant Reformation Really Disenchanted the World" from Faithful Narratives: Historians, Religion, and the Challenge of Objectivity, ed. Andrea Stark and Nina Caputo (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014). A PDF copy of the reading will be provided.

This chapter discusses how challenges to traditional beliefs about death and purgatory in the Protestant Reformation caused significant material consequences, triggering a so-called “economic revolution.” Focusing on the issue of secularization in a present-day understanding of Protestant Reformation, the chapter examines the concept of “disenchantment” as manifested in three distinguishing characteristics of Protestantism. First is the redefinition of how “matter” and “spirit” relate to each other, which had led to iconoclasm and a new approach to rituals. Second is the redefinition of the boundaries between the “natural” and “supernatural” realms, which led to the denial of mystical ecstasies. Lastly, there is the separation of the living from the dead, which led to a reconfiguring of conceptual and socioeconomic structures.


Carlos Eire is the T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History & Religious Studies at Yale University. He holds a PhD from Yale University, specializes in the social, intellectual, religious, and cultural history of late medieval and early modern Europe, with a strong focus on both the Protestant and Catholic Reformations; the history of popular piety; and the history of the supernatural, and the history of death. He is the author of War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship From Erasmus to Calvin (1986); From Madrid to Purgatory: The Art and Craft of Dying in Sixteenth Century Spain (1995); A Very Brief History of Eternity (2010); and co-author of Jews, Christians, Muslims: An Introduction to Monotheistic Religions (1997). His latest book,, Reformations: The Early Modern World (2016) won the R.R.Hawkins Prize for Best Book of the Year from the American Publishers Association, as well as the award for Best Book in the Humanities.