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What Happened to the Renaissance in the German Academy? A Report on German "Renaissance" Institutes.

Where is the research on the Renaissance being done in Germany? Is it true that "European history is still firmly divided among antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the modern era," and that therefore "the Renaissance occupies no space of its own in the history curriculum [of German universities]" as Professor Karant-Nunn has argued? [1] The problem, it seems, is that German historians have largely abandoned the term "Renaissance" to denote the period between the Middle Ages and the modern era, using instead the term "early modern period" (Fruhe Neuzeit), a term whose perimeters are variously defined as extending from the close of the Middle Ages to the end of the seventeenth century, or to the French Revolution, or even to the end of the old Reich in 1806. The justification for arguing for a macro-epoch, one distinct from the Middle Ages and the modern period, in favor of the traditional terms such as Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, and Enlightenment, is seen in the unity of the period. Klaus Garber, the direct or of Interdisziplinares Institut fur Kulturgeschichte der Fruhen Neuzeit, argues that during the early modern period the ancient and medieval traditions were productively appropriated and transformed. [2] Such unity is also found in the continuous reception of antiquity from humanism to classicism; in the development of the various Christian confessions and their system of norms; in the rise of the modern state with its reception of Roman law; in the development of a system of world economy; in the advancement of the natural sciences; in the creation of national linguistic and writing systems; and in the establishment of a canon of topics, motifs, themes, and images based on antiquity. Renaissance studies have thus been placed into a larger context but they have not disappeared in that context. While there are no chairs at German universities for Renaissance history; there are numerous professorships for early modern history. And the fact that the early modern period enjoys substantial scholarly attention is clearly apparent when looking at one of the indispensable tools of the early modern scholar, the annual directory called Scholars of Early Modern Studies, published by the Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers and the Center for Reformation Research. Aside from the American scholars, those from German-speaking countries represent by far the largest contingent.

In this essay, however, I would like to review the work of institutes outside the German university structures that foster "Renaissance" scholarship. Are there German equivalents to the Warburg Institute in London, to the Centre d'Etudes Superieures de la Renaissance in Tours, or to the Institut d'Etudes de la Renaissance l'Age Classique in Saint-Etienne, to the Folger Institute for Renaissance and Eighteenth Century Studies in Washington, and to the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies in Chicago, to mention only a few of such institutes in England, France and United States. During the last decade a number of institutes have been founded in Germany and Austria that vigorously support research in the early modern period, promising to enrich the academic landscape in the German-speaking countries. In order to gain a better understanding of their methods, approaches, research strengths, organizational structures, and publication programs, I visited several of these institutes during the month of May of 1998. [3]


The University of Osnabruck, home of the Interdisziplinares Institut fur Kulturgeschichte der Fruhen Neuzeit, is not part of the venerable German centers of learning such as Heidelberg, Tubingen, or Gottingen that established the fame of the German universities in the nineteenth century. Founded in the 1970s to accommodate the growing number of students demanding and receiving access to the universities, Osnabruck is a young university. This might very well explain the fact that the institute has been flourishing here since its official founding in 1992. Unburdened by century-old traditions and more receptive to new ideas than older universities, departmental divisions have not hardened so much as to make interdisciplinary cooperation difficult. However, the main reason why a loosely connected group of early modern scholars, formed as early as 1984, became an institute with a growing international reputation lies in the efforts of one individual, Klaus Garber, professor of German literature. He is the indefa tigable force driving the institute. Without diminishing the contribution of his colleagues and his staff, it can be said that Klaus Garber is the heart and soul of the institute, a man who combines energy and vision with a modest demeanor and great erudition.

Made up of scholars of German literature, history, music, art history, Protestant and Catholic theology; romance languages, and legal history, the institute strives to inspire, organize, and publish interdisciplinary research on the early modern period. This interdisciplinary cooperation finds expression in a number of different ways. The institute organizes guest lectures around common themes (so-called Ringvorlesungen) , workshops, and international congresses. During the few years since its inception, the institute has organized or co-sponsored an impressive number of such meetings, among them "Nation und Literatur im Europa der Fruhen Neuzeit" (Nation and Literature in Europe of the Early Modern Period, 1986). The papers were published in 1989, documenting in detail how the various national literatures contributed to the development of national identities in early modern Europe.

In 1989, another international congress met in Paris and dealt with literary and scholarly societies, academies, scholarly circles, salons, and related groups that flourished in the early modern period, resulting in a two-volume edition called Europaische Sozietatsbewegung und demokratische Tradition (Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1996). [4] Other international symposia and congresses sponsored or co-sponsored by the institute dealt with "Stadt und Literatur. Der alte deutsche Sprachraum zwischen Renaissance und Aufklarung" (Town and Literature. The Old German-speaking Territories between Renaissance and Enlightenment; Osnabruck, 1990); Archbishop Albrecht von Mainz (Mainz, 1990); "Goya -- Die sozialen Konflikte seiner Zeit und die Rezeption seiner Kunst im 19.und 20. Jahrhundert" (Goya -- the Social Conflicts of His Time and the Reception of his Art in the 19th and 20th Centuries; Osnabruck, 1991), and "Frauenforschung und Feminismus in der Kunstgeschichte" (Women's Studies and Feminism in Art History; Osnabruck, 199 3). Plans to publish the proceedings are underway.

A Friedenskongress was also held in Osnabruck from October 25-31, 1998 on the occasion of the anniversary of the Peace of Westphalia, (part of which was signed in Osnabruck). This congress attempted to go beyond the historical reconstruction of the Westphalian peace treaty to question issues that are as relevant today as they were in 1648 such as visions of peace, concepts of coexistence, and images of harmony. With its six main themes (state formation and societal differentiation; culture and civilization; religion and confession; gender; nature; Europe and its borders), it was the most ambitious undertaking of the institute to date. The newly built Hotel Remarque, named after Osnabruck's native son Erich Maria Remarque of All Quiet on the Western Front fame and located just outside the medieval town walls, is able to host large international congresses. I am sure that the Friedenskongress will not be the last one organized by the active institute.

All of these gatherings share not only their interdisciplinarity but also an attempt to bridge the past and present, confirming our belief that the present can be better understood by an examination of the past.

As valuable and important as the organization of meetings is for scholarly exchange, it can not replace basic research, the painstaking bibliographical and philological work with texts. In this area, too, the institute has done pioneering work. Generously supported by foundation money, the institute is in the process of registering all the Gelegenheitsschrifitum (casual literature, i.e., poems composed on the occasion of marriages, funerals, baptisms, birthdays, name days, arrivals and departures of friends, academic occasions, honors, anniversaries) written during the early modern period, in Latin and German, by authors living and working in the old German territories of Silesia, East and West Prussia, and Pomerania that were ceded to Poland and Russia in the wake of World War II.

Following extensive travels to libraries and archives in Poland, Russia, and the Baltic states and aided by generous grants from the VW Foundation and other funding agencies, Klaus Garber and his staff have established a remarkable collection of material (20,000 items, many of them on microfilm, microfiche, or as photocopy). All this is preparatory for work to be written such as regionally-based social histories of the literature produced in these former German-speaking provinces in the East. To this end, the casual literature furnishes an invaluable textual basis. It provides insights into authors and their readers as well as author-reader relationships, communication networks, and literary circles. It also affords us a glimpse at the entire sociological spectrum of those involved in literary discourse at the time: students, teachers, professors, administrators, secretaries, doctors, jurists, clergymen, patricians, and artisans, providing a wealth of information necessary for historical reconstruction of pa st literary landscapes.

In pursuing its goal of writing separate histories based on historic German provinces, the institute has organized several smaller gatherings: on Pomerania (1992), on East Prussia (1994), and on the Baltic States (1997). Given recent history, the project of taking stock of works by German authors in Polish, Baltic, and Russian libraries and archives could have led to misunderstandings. It is a tribute to all concerned that this did not happen. It certainly is no coincidence that the 1999 conference on the cultural history of Silesia, will take place in Kryzowa, Poland. Kryzowa -- the Polish name of Kreisau, the former family estate of Helmut von Moltke -- was a center of resistance against Hitler during the Third Reich and is a meeting place for young Germans and Poles.


Today, Frankfurt am Main (also called "Mainhattan" due to the city's many skyscrapers) is best known for its banks, including the new European Central Bank. However, it is also the home of a large and important university and many renowned institutes, including three Max Planck institutes. Since 1993, it has been able to boast of another institute, the Zentrum zur Erforschung der Fruhen Neuzeit der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universitat Frankfurt am Main (ZFN), or as it calls itself in an English brochure, "Center for Research in Early Modern History, Culture, and Science." Housed in a villa in Frankfurt's fashionable Westend, the "Renaissance Institut" (as the press stubbornly but misleadingly calls it) has quickly become one of the leading institutes of early modern studies. The center's goal is to encourage and facilitate interdisciplinary cooperation in fields such as art history, economics, history of science, sociology literature, history, Middle Eastern studies, and Judaic studies. The center is devoted t o a study of the early modern period and therefore must include a study of the natural sciences; this factor gives the ZFN its special profile.

Indebted to the program of the Frankfurt school, the ZFN "is concerned with a critical revision of early modern culture in the light of recent changes in our understanding of political, intellectual and scientific history." [5] Thus, a study of the past with the desire to better understand the present prompted the founding of the ZFN, or as Klaus Reichert, Professor of English literature and director of the institute, puts it: "We want to conduct historical studies in order to assist in coping with crisis symptoms (Krisensymptome) of the present." [6] And, as Reichert declared in 1993, Krisensymptome are everywhere: "The center is being founded at a time when the crisis of modernity seems to have reached a new climax, at which the paradigm of progress has become questionable, at which ideologies and convictions long thought to be overcome have returned, such as nationalism, racism, patriarchialism, religious fanaticism, and irrational doomsday prognoses." [7] Scholars are encouraged to engage in a "transdisc iplinary dialogue on the importance of Renaissance and Early Modern Studies for an assessment of contemporary problems."

Beyond the scholarly community, however, the center seeks to reach out to the general public, a practice that represents an exception rather than the rule in the German academic landscape. These two aspects -- interdisciplinarity and an openness to the non-academic community -- have shaped the initiatives that have quickly put the ZFN on the German cultural map. A large part of that credit goes to Klaus Reichert, who, according to the weekly Die Zeit (21 January 1994), "masterfully plays the institutional keyboard" as a fund raiser and diplomat and has excellent connections to the USA, England, Israel, and other countries. Generously supported by a number of Frankfurt banks, Klaus Reichert has organized a lecture series every year since 1993, bringing to Frankfurt scholars from Europe and the United States. This lecture series is aptly termed Zeitsprunge or "Leaps in Time" which expresses the ZFN's central conviction that the past can serve the explanatory needs of the present. The series has included such s cholarly luminaries as Carlo Ginzburg, Stephen Greenblatt, Natalie Zemon Davis, Terry Eagleton, Harald Weinreich, Catherine Belsey, Keith Thomas, Roger Chartier, Christian Meier, Rene Girard, and Louis Montrose. Including diverse scholars, it suggests that the Frankfurt institute is not beholden to any particular school, but that it is open, somewhat eclectically, to a wide variety of different interpretative approaches such as Critical Theory, New Historicism, Cultural Materialism, Feminist Theory, Nouvelle Histoire, Marxist Theory, and Historical Anthropology.

In 1997, the ZFN also gave the name Zeitsprunge to its journal. Appearing four times a year, Zeitsprunge (Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann) provides a forum for early modern scholars working in the humanities and social sciences (including legal and economic history), and the natural sciences and medicine. It also features articles, texts of lectures, and summaries of congresses organized by the institute.

In addition to sponsoring the lecture series Zeitsprunge and the periodical of the same name, the ZFN has organized, in cooperation with other institutions, a number of symposia and congresses. The first took place in 1994 and dealt with Aspekte der Gegenreformation" (Aspects of the Counter-Reformation) from the points of view of historians, art historians, sociologists, Italianists, librarians, musicologists, social philosophers, legal historians, and literary historians coming from Germany, Italy, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. The papers, edited by Victoria von Flemming, appeared in a special issue of Zeitsprunge (1.314 [1997]). They show that in an age of increasing specialization it is easier to preach than to practice interdisciplinarity. In her introductory essay entitled "Gegenreformation oder Konfessionalisierung als Modernisierung?"von Flemming sums up the various positions, finding some common threads that hold the articles together. More recently, the ZFN co-sponsored an int ernational conference on "Geschlechterperspektiven in der Fruhen Neuzeit" (Gender Perspectives in the Early Modern Period, October, 1996); a workshop on "The End of the World: Doomsday or Utopia"; and two conferences on Giordano Bruno: "The Actualities of Bruno" (Frankfurt, 1998) and "The Historical Contexts of Bruno" (Rome, 1998). The proceedings of these conferences will also be published in the future.


While the Frankfurt institute strives to increase the theoretical reflection on the early modern period through its many activities, the Institut fur Europaische Kulturgeschichte at the University of Augsburg is different. This difference has as much to do with Augsburg itself as with the genesis of that institute.

As every student of the early modern period knows, Augsburg was not only one of Europe's most important commercial and banking centers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but was also a focal point of art and science, and a leading place of South German printing. Some of its patrician burghers owned impressive libraries, among them humanist and imperial councillor, Konrad Peutinger. His library collection is still found in Augsburg, though dispersed -- a condition shared by many other collections. [8] These collections form the basic stock of the Staats-und Stadtbibliothek (State and Municipal Library) which owns over 5,200 manuscripts -- 2,000 of which are from the Middle Ages -- and 4,600 incunabula. These library resources, which also includes the Stadtarchiv (Municipal Archives) with its well-preserved records of the city's rich history, were increased by a happy circumstance. In the mid-1980s, the State of Bavaria acquired the Oettingen-Wallersteinsche Bibliothek. Contrary to all expectations, thi s valuable library, which comprises between 300,000 and 400,000 volumes, was not incorporated into the Bayrische Staatsbibliothek in Munich but was transferred to the library of the relatively young University of Augsburg. This decision prompted a few Augsburg scholars to create the institutional framework to make Augsburg's rich library and archival resources in the area of the early modern period more accessible to scholars. The Institut fur Europaische Kulturgeschichte was born. It therefore owes its founding not so much to the desire of a group of scholars to transcend the boundaries of their respective disciplines, but to the practical need to function as a "Cicerone" for scholars working on Augsburg's history. Located in five rooms in the Prinzregentenstra[beta]e (conveniently situated between the Stadtarchiv and the Staats-und Stadtbibliothek), the institute grants stipends and funds for visiting scholars and provides a few small rooms with computers. The institute's ambition is to become the South Ger man counterpart of North German Wolfenbuttel's Herzog-August- Bibliothek. Given its rich resources, the Augsburg institute certainly has the potential to become just that. But my immediate impression is that it has a long way to go toward that goal. Frequent fluctuation in personnel, modest facilities, and lack of coordination on all levels will make this a difficult task.

Still, solid research has been produced under the auspices of the institute. Beyond providing assistance in opening up the resources of the Augsburg libraries and archives, the institute, like the other institutes, has organized symposia and meetings as well as guest lectures. It also sponsors two publication series, the Studia Augustana (Tubingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag), and the Colloquia Augustana (Berlin: Akademie Verlag). I will note only those that have appeared.

As its title suggests, the series Colloquia Augustana offers the revised texts of conferences, colloquia, and workshops that have taken place either at or in cooperation with the institute.

Called by its editors the "Grundungsurkunde" (foundation document) of the institute, the first volume, entitled Augsburg in der Fruhen Neuzeit. Beitrage zu einem Forschungsprogramm (1995), edited by Jochen Bruning and Friedrich Niewohner, provides a look at the institute's program. This collection of essays, centered around Augsburg, addresses historians in all fields: art, urban evolution, economics, literature and sociology. The first group of essays deals with the Augsburg merchant, agent, and collector Philipp Hainhofer, and his social circle; the second discusses printing, book trade, and libraries in Augsburg; and a last group reviews Augsburg's economy and culture.

The second volume, Judengemeinden in Schwaben im Kontext des Alten Reiches (1995), again the proceedings of a conference that brought together scholars from Germany, Israel, and the United States, deals with urban communities, the structure of Jewish life in the countryside, anti-Jewish sentiments, and the period of Jewish emancipation. Based on newly discovered archival material, the papers ask fresh questions so that the studies provide new insights into the history of Jews.

The third volume, Augsburger Handelshauser im Wandel des historischen Urteils (1996), edited by Johannes Burkhardt, professor of History and the acting director of the institute, does not deal with the Fugger and Welser families as such, but rather with the changing perceptions of and the myths and legends that have accumulated around these families. Other volumes treat specific Augsburg personalities such as the Augsburg pietist Samuel Urlsperger (vol. 4) or the South German reformer Wolfgang Musculus (vol. 6). Kunst und ihre Auftraggeber. Venedig und Augsburg im Vergleich (vol.5, eds. Klaus Bergdolt and Jochen Bruning) compares the art patronage in the two cities in the sixteenth centuries by focusing on the heterogenous groups of patrons, their interests, levels of education, social positions, as well as their potentials and limits.

While Colloquia Augustina documents the institute's conferences, workshops, and colloquia, Studia Augustana presents studies that either have been written by members of the institute or revolve around Augsburg.

The studies offer a wide spectrum of topics ranging from the statutes of the Augsburg Meistersinger (Die Schulordnung und das Gemerkbuch der Augsburger Meistersinger [1991]), to an examination of the literary genre of the Furstenspiegel (Politische Tugendlehre und Regierungskunst. Studien zum Furstenpiegel der Fruhen Neuzeit [1990]) to literary life in Augsburg in the fifteenth century (Literarisches Leben in Augsburg wahrend des 15. Jahrhunderts [1996]), to two volumes dealing with German drama of the eighteenth century (Abschrecken oder Mitleiden. Das deutsche burgerliche Trauerspiel im 18. Jahrhundert [1993] and Burgerlichkeit im Umbruch. Studien zum deutschsprachigen Drama 1750-1800 [1993]). The bibliography alone of the more than 1,500 plays written between 1750 and 1800 contained in the Oettingen-Wallersteinsche Bibliothek allows us a glimpse at the wealth of that collection for further study.

Material for future studies is also provided in the collection called Augsburger Eliten des 16. Jahrhunderts (ed. Wolfgang Reinhard, 1996). Basically a prosopography of the economic and political elites between 1500 and 1620, the volume gives brief descriptions of not less than 1,546 persons who, during that time, constituted the imperial city's elite. As far as I know, there is no other major city of the early modern period for which such documentation exists.

Finally, mention must be made of Hans-Jorg Kunast's learned book Getruckt zu Augspurg. Buchdruck und Buchhandel in Augsburg zwischen 1468 und 1555 (1997). Working from the rich archival materials of the Augsburg Stadtarchiv and various libraries, Kunast presents a comprehensive and detailed study on book production, structure of the book trade, and censorship, covering the period from the time when the first printing shops opened in Augsburg in 1468 to the Augsburg Peace in 1555. During this time, more than 6,000 one-page pamphlets and books were printed here, and during the early Reformation, Augsburg became the most important printing place for pro-Lutheran Flugschriften. The Institut fur Europaische Kulturgeschichte is still profiting from that legacy today.

As different as these three institutes are in their goals, methods, and organization, they share some common features:

1. Though affiliated with their universities, all three institutes enjoy differing measures of independence (the often complicated legal structure need not interest us here). This relative independence means, on the one hand, that they are unencumbered by the proscribed curricula of the (public) universities, and thus able to set their own research agendas. On the other hand, they are very much dependent on grants from foundations for their very existence. Still, up to now, German foundations have supported them with large sums to an enviable degree.

2. The three institutes use the term "Fruhe Neuzeit," shunning the term "Renaissance" as too narrowly associated with art and intellectual history and denoting only one phase of a much larger and distinct macro-epoch.

3. Open to a plurality of methods, the three institutes still vary in the intensity with which they embrace new methods of research. While the Frankfurt institute has made the most forceful effort to draw attention to innovative critical methodologies from France and the Anglo-Saxon world, the Augsburg institute appears less interested in these more innovative scholarly approaches.

4. All three institutes understand their work as being part of the Kulturwissenschaften or Kulturgeschichte, key terms in the current scholarly discourse in Germany. These terms are broad and hard to define to accommodate not only the classical approaches of Jakob Burckhardt and Aby Warburg, but also more recent methodologies by Norbert Elias, Reinhart Koselleck, Philippe Aries, Jean Delumeau, Raymond Williams, Merry Hanks Wiesner, Miriam Chrisman, Elizabeth Eisenstein, and others. [9]

5. Aware of their precarious situations in a time of fiscal conservation as well as the importance of cooperation, each institute has established connections with comparable institutes in Germany and other countries. Within the German-speaking world, plans for the founding of a Jahrbuch fur Fruhe Neuzeit are underway.

6. Finally, as their directors have indicated to me, all three institutes are ready to lend assistance and support, to the best of their abilities, to visiting American scholars working in the early modern period.

If the three institutes discussed above have extended the scope of their investigations to the entire early modern period, the Willibald Pirckheimer Gesellschaft, along with the Wolfenbutteler Arbeitskreis fur Renaissance-Forschung, keeps aloft the flag of Renaissance and humanist research. These institutes are the only scholarly organizations in the German-speaking countries to do so.

Founded in 1983, the Willibald Pirckheimer Gesellschaft is named after the Nuremberg patrician Willibald Pirckheimer (1470-1530), the famous sixteenth-century German humanist. Equally fascinated by physics, alchemy, medicine, geography, historiography, literature, and theology, Pirckheimer also collected Latin and Greek coins and inscriptions. His works included numerous translations from Greek into Latin, and from both languages into German, as well as editions of Greek and Latin authors. Pirckheimer is a true patron saint for a society that dedicates itself to the interdisciplinary exploration of the Renaissance.

Presided over for more than a decade by Stephan Fussel, the director of the Institute for Book Science (Buchwissenschaft) at the University of Mainz, the Pirckheimer Society holds annual meetings whose multi-disciplinarity reflects the far-ranging interests of its name-sake. Since 1985, these scholarly symposia have been documented in the annual Pirckheimer Jahrbuch (Nuremberg: Verlag Hans Carl, up to 1996; Wiesbaden: Carl Harrassowitz, after 1997).

A brief survey of these annual meetings suggests that the society indeed takes seriously the legacy of Willibald Pirckheimer in dealing with a wide variety of literary, historical, economic, and scientific topics. In the first volume, a philosopher, a historian, an art historian, and an historian of German literature offer reflections on the topic "Wort und Bild" (Word and Picture). Subsequent meetings (and volumes) are devoted to travel literature in the early modern period (Reiseberichte der fruhen Neuzeit = Pirckheimer Jahrbuch, 1986). In 1987, the Pirckheimer Gesellschaft organized an exbibit and a richly illustrated catalogue on Thomas Morus, exploring his literary, political, and theological views (Thomas Morus, Humanist--Staatsmann--Martyrer = Pirckheimer Jahrbuch, 1987). In 1988, the Society abandoned its traditional meeting place at Nuremberg and moved to the tiny town of Schluchtern, birthplace of Ulrich von Hutten, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his birth. The conference attracted attenti on beyond the narrow circle of specialists by stripping away the myths and legends that have obscured the historical Hutten and to reach a more sober assessment of this often misunderstood humanist. The following years saw annual meetings devoted to astronomy and astrology (Astronomie und Astrologie in der fruhen Neuzeit = Pirckheimer Jahrbuch, 1989/90); retrospective tendencies in art, music and theology around 1600 (Retrospektive Tendenzen in Kunst, Musik und Theologie um 1600 = Pirckheimer Jahrbuch, 1991); the impact of the travels of discovery for Europe (Die Folgen der Entdeckungsreisen fur Europa = Pirckheimer Jahrbuch, 1992); and humanism and theology in the early modern period (Humanismus und Theologie in der Fruhen Neuzeit = Pirckheimer Jahrbuch, 1993). Reflecting Willibald Pirckheimer's obsession with books -- he owned one of Europe's largest private libraries -- the Pirckheimer Gesellschaft, together with the Gutenberg Society, sponsored a symposium on one of the most beautiful books of the incunab ula period, the Nuremberg Chronicle, whose 500th anniversary of publication was celebarted in 1993 (500 Jahre Schedelsche Weltchronik = Pirckheimer Jahrbuch, 1994). The following year, the Pirckheimer Society honored Hans Sachs on the 500th anniversary of his birth with a symposium (Hans Sachs im Schnittpunkt von Antike und Neuzeit = Pirckheimer Jahrbuch, 1995). "Humanism and the Early Printed Book" was the topic of the annual meeting in 1995, resulting in Humanismus und fruher Buchdruck (= Pirckheimer Jahrbuch, 1996).

Following the end of the Cold War, the Pirckheimer Society established contacts with scholars in Poland and other countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain. This cooperation resulted in the society's most ambitious undertaking to date, a symposium on Polish humanism and European humanist sodalities (May 1996 in Cracow). Scholars from Poland, Germany, and the United States discussed such topics as "Cracow University during the Renaissance," "Literary Circles and Societies in Cracow and Poland during the Renaissance," "Callimachus' Position in the Cultural History of Poland," "Cultural and Literary Connections Between Basel and Cracow in the 16th Century," "The Humanist Book in Poland," "The Olmutz Humanist Circle," "The Erfurt Humanist Circle Between Humanism and Reformation," "Konrad Peutinger and the Sodalitas Peuteringiana," and the "Sodalitas litteraria Rhenana." The Pirckheimer Jahrbuch resulting from this well-attended meeting (Der Polnische Humanismus und die Europaischen Sodalitaten, 1997) is an impr essive monograph that not only complements Klaus Garber's two volume work on the European academic societies, but also brings the multi-faceted Polish humanist culture into the orbit of Western Europe, reminding us of the close ties that existed between European humanists.

The Pirckheimer Gesellschaft occupies no buildings, possesses no library, and employs no staff. With 180 members (from Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and the United States) it is relatively small compared to other societies. But, as the annual meetings and the Jahrbucher show, it is an important voice in German Renaissance studies and should take its place among those organizations whose ambition it is to further and foster research and publication on the early modern period of which the Renaissance is a vital part.

Renaissance studies in Germany are alive and well. Even though they might not always be called such. [10]


(1.) "Humanism to the Fore: Renaissance Studies in Germany Today." Renaissance Quarterly 47 (1994), 931.

(2.) In the "Informationsbroschure" of his institute (see below), 1996, 7.

(3.) I would like to thank Professors Klaus Garber in Osnabruck, Klaus Reichert in Frankfurt, Stephan Fussel in Mainz, and Wolfgang Weber in Augsburg for meeting with me. Regrettably, I was not able to arrange a visit to the Institut fur die Erforschung der Fruhen Neuzeit in Vienna. Several letters and e-mails by me remained unanswered.

(4.) Cf. my review in Renaissance Quarterly 50 (1997): 850-857.

(5.) Quoted from the brief English pamphlet of the ZFN.

(6.) "Wir wollen historische Studien betreiben, urn einen Beitrag zur Bewaltigung von Krisensymptomen in der Gegenwart zu leisten." Quoted in Die Frankfurter Rundschau of October 26, 1993.

(7.) "Das Zentrum enrsteht zu einem Zeitpunkt, an dem dre Krise der Moderne einen neuen Hohepunkt zu erreichen scheint, an dem das Paradigma des Fortschrits fraglich wird, an dem uberwunden geglaubte Uberzeugungen und Ideologien ... zuruckzukehren scheinen: Nationalismus, Rassismus, religioser Fundamentalismus, Irrationalismus, Endzeitprognosen." Quoted in Frankfurter Rundschau October 26, 1993.

(8.) Dr. Hans-Jorg Kunast is currently reconstructing Conrad Peutinger's library. Once finished this reconstruction should allow us glimpses at the mental world of this important humanist.

(9.) Cf. the "Informationsbroschure" of the Osnabruck institute, p. 9. For the heated debate on the concept of Kulturgeschichte within the German historical profession see: Wolfgang Hardtwig and Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Kulturgeschichte Heute. (Geschichte und Gesellchaft. Zeitschrift fur Historische Sozialwissenschaft, Sonderheft 16.) Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996.

(10.) My conclusions differ in some respects from those of Professor Karant-Nunn articulated in three articles on recent German scholarship in Renaissance Quarterly "Humanism to the Fore: Renaissance Studies in Germany Today." RQ 47 (1994): 930-941; "Turning New Leaves: Renaissance Studies in Germany, 1995." RQ 48 (1995): 843-854; and "Navigating Currents: Renaissance Studies Today." RQ 49 (1996): 840-849. I diverge from her assessment on three points: (1) German scholarship on the Renaissance is conservative (RQ 47, 931; RQ 49, 849); (2) German scholars still take their inspiration from Jakob Burckhardt (RQ 47, 941; RQ 48, 844); and (3) German scholars have "prejudices against the work of French-, Italian-, English-writing colleagues" (RQ 47, 941). While still supportable for some parts of the disciplines, the work done in the three institutes suggests to me that these conclusions may no longer be tenable.


Institut fur Europaische Kulturgeschichte der Universitat Augsburg, Prinzregentenstrabe 11a, D-86150 Augsburg.

Interdisziplinares Institut fur Kulturgeschichte der Fruhen Neuzeit, Universitat Osnabruck, Neuer Graben 19/21, D-49069 Osnabruck.

Willibald-Pirckheimer Gesellschaft, Vorsitzender: Prof. Stephan Fussel, Institut fur Buchwissenschaft, Johannes-Gutenberg Universitat Mainz, D-55099 Mainz.

Zentrum zur Erforschung der Fruhen Neuzeit der Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universitat, Kettenhofweg 135, D-60054 Frankfurt am Main.
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Date:Dec 22, 1999
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