EXC 2060 C3-28 - Flaubert and religion(s). Media forms and socio-political practices of religion in the 19th century

in Process
Funding Source
DFG - Cluster of Excellence
Project Number
EXC 2060/1
  • Description

    Gustave Flaubert is one of the 19th century writers who intensively explored theological interpretations of the world and social practices of religion, both in the contemporary world and in ancient culture. The german historian Jürgen Osterhammel defines religion in the 19th century as a “power of existence of the first order”: it was “a source of individual orientation in life, a crystallisation point for community building and for the formation of collective identities, a structural principle of social hierarchisation, a driving force of political struggles, a field in which sophisticated intellectual debates were carried out” (Osterhammel, 2008, p. 1239). Flaubert’s work reflects this plurality of the socio-political significance of religion from a critical perspective.

    The project, which promotes the dissertation of Frieda Schulze Dephoff, attempts a synthesis of 1) Flaubert’s scholarly and intensive engagement with 19th century approaches to religious studies, 2) his critical view of literary concepts of religious understanding of the world and 3) the analysis and recording of social practices of what Flaubert called “modern religion” (Corr. V, p. 720, Oct 8th 1879). The process of change to which religious practices and rituals are subjected in 19th century urban society in France is of particular interest and will be presented based on Flaubert’s diverse work and, above all, historically perspectivised and critically analysed for the novel L’Éducation sentimentale (1869).

    The question, which can be methodically addressed through socio-political, art-historical, and media-analytical perspectives, promises to identify secularisation tendencies in the complex ambivalence of religious practices and thus also gaps in spirituality, which are only imperfectly concealed by consumerist surfaces, kitsch, and fetish. At the same time, this would make the tendencies and problems of the 20th century tangible and Flaubert’s distance from the Enlightenment discourse of the 18th century more clearly recognisable. In June 2025, an international colloquium on the outlined project will take place at the University of Münster at the Cluster of Excellence.

  • Persons

  • Dissertation

    Friede Schule Dephoff