Season 1 – Episode 10

Winds of Change: Luther, Bodily Function, and the Reformation

Ep.10 Luther and his farts with Janae Kennedy

Martin Luther is widely known for the legend of his famous 1517 act of defiance, his nailing of his 95 Theses to the doors of Wittenberg Cathedral. What is perhaps  less well known is Luther’s ongoing defiance of evil and the devil himself.

For Luther, though, this contest with evil was more than metaphor. Luther’s devil was a physical presence and a real attack that he wrestled with day and night. Among Luther’s arsenal of weapons in his contest with evil was his own body.

Throughout his writings, there is evidence of Luther’s own physical confrontation with evil, a confrontation that involved his confessed “farting” on the Devil to ward off his temptation. The nature of these physical contests with evil and the wider relationship of the Reformation’s spiritual changes to the history of the body are the preoccupations of this project.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Primary Sources 

Martin Luther. Luther’s Works. Vol. 54. ed. Jaroslav Pelikan. American Edition. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955.

Secondary Sources

Carlos Eire. Reformations: The Early Modern World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

Roy Porter, ‘History of the Body Reconsidered’, in New Perspectives on Historical Writing, ed. Peter Burke, 2nd Ed. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001. The Female Body in Western Perspective. ed. Susan Rubin Suleiman. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986.

Published by Hear the Voice and Prayer

How can we study belief? What are the longer term implications of religious change in society? These connected questions form the core of our course and our investigation of Early Modern Europe (c. 1450-1789). Indeed, the meaning of belief was the central issue of contention in Europe from the dawn of the Renaissance until the twilight of the eighteenth century and its Revolutions. The shattering of the Christian consensus and the rise of the empirical frame was a pathway cleared with the twin swords of Humanism’s cry of ad fontes and Luther’s injunction of sola fide. The route uncovered was a journey to the “Modern” in all its beauty and ugliness. Yet, stones lay upon this trail, rocky reminders whose pain and obstacle convey the irony that Europe’s greatest religious revolution resulted in the ultimate secularization of the continent and of the West in general. Still, secularization, caught as it is in a dialectic with Christianity, is a form of belief, and belief remains central. The effort to experience, define, and understand both acceptable and unacceptable beliefs will be our compass to map Europe’s Early Modern world, the world of unfolding Reformations. This course will consist of primary and secondary readings, lecture, classroom discussion, as well as multiple student writing assignments culminating in a final research based student podcast.

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