(B2-5) The Neo-Latin Emblem Literature. The multimedia genre of Neo-Latin (and multilingual) emblem literature as a mediator of political and religious thought, c. 1530 to c. 1670

Emblem literature is both a new invention and one of the most successful early modern genres as such. Due to the multitude of media in which it was composed (printing, woodcuts, copper engravings, manuscripts, medals, coins, tapestries, mural art, glass painting, sculptures, furniture, architecture, festivities, processions, etc.), it lends itself like no other to discuss the mediating power of medial figurations of the pre-modern age. As recent bibliographical works and survey studies have shown (Daly 2009, Dimler 2009, Daly-Dimler 1997ff, Peil 2009), the subjects of religion and politics play an important role in emblem literature, both in their complexity (interdependence) and as fields differentiating themselves (emblemata politica; devotional emblem literature/book of meditations). Here, the Neo-Latin emblem books stand out both quantitatively and as regards their innovative nature. Highly interesting material groups exist here, of which only selected points have so far been captured rudimentarily. They are still awaiting a systematic analysis. The mediating power of emblem literature as regards political and religious thought may demand particular interest in so far as the emergence of the genre took place just at a time of massive religious and political shiftings and reorientation (reformation, counter-reformation, confessionalisation; political shiftings up to the Peace of Westphalia) in the context of a continuously differentiating respublica litteraria and ambitious publishing in a rapidly growing book market.

The mediating power of emblematics is one of the areas that still require a detailed review. Overall, it has to be rated highly – particularly since it is located in numerous niches of literature, of visual and applied arts; as it includes numerous figurations of art; is capable of reaching different audience segments (e. g. Latin emblem books: spiritual and political elite, emblems on coins: also lower classes); and develops its effectiveness both in public spaces (e. g. town halls, architecture, processions and marches) and in private spaces (Catholic devotional emblematics; Protestant books of meditation, family registers). Particularly insightful comparatistic analytical possibilities arise from the fact that, among other things, the very same emblem is used both in the public and the private domain, in various forms of art and literature, in different cultural contexts. Further comparative potential arises in the case of multilingual emblem books as they offer insights into the miscellaneous linguistic discourse formations which control the transmission of political and religious thought. Every emblem as such usually features an inherently double medial constitution (text-image), that is, it includes both linguistic and non-linguistic conceptualisation processes of political and religious values; processes, the respective discoursive character and effect of which will be investigated in the project. Relevant preliminary studies have shown that the text and image discourses have often taken different routes and that the ideal-type unity of text and image, which Henkel and Schöne postulated by definition, is in many cases doubtful. Important questions, therefore, will include: what are the respective mediating powers that image discourse and text discourse have to show? How do we have to visualise their interaction on a functional level?

Due to the massive religious and political shiftings, it can be expected that the need for transmission was great and that high demands were made on it. The research project follows more recent interpretations of emblematics, which focus on the functional embedding of cultural contexts. Among other things, the didactic and memorative function of emblematics, which played an important role in Jesuit school teaching, for example (Dimler, Porteman), and the use of emblematics in courtly representation (rulers’ panegyric; Klecker) was recently pointed out; furthermore, there was its application in a broader sense in the social, religious and political self-portrayal, and as a medium of communication (networking, dedications of single emblems, family registers). Thus, emblematics offers excellent possibilities to mediate political and religious values, both simple and in complex figurations and images. Which images were used for which contents? Which image discourses were they based on? Which texts were used? To what extent and in what manner were they – for the purpose of internalising religious and political values – related to the images? What did the respective text and image discourses contribute to internalisation? What role did the oft-quoted ‘enigmatic’ nature of emblematics play here? What are the relations between enigma, didactics and ars memorativa and between enigma and the practicing of politico-religious values that can be identified?

An important question concerns the interdependence or, respectively, the dissociation of religious and political values in emblematics. Approaches in both directions can be observed here, the respective political and religious context and the respective audience orientation being crucial. While the areas of politics and religion were closely intertwined in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was seen as sensible in a number of cases to dissociate religion and politics in order to solve certain problems. The conditions and contexts under which attempts at integration and the conditions under which attempts at dissociation were undertaken need to be investigated in every single case. An interesting phenomenon in this regard is that, in principle, a certain semantic flexibility was preprogrammed in the poetics of emblematics. The project intends to investigate the effectiveness and manner of use of this semantic flexibility/ambiguity.

The project’s objectives:

  • A monograph on the problem
  • A monograph on the special case of mediating religious and political ideas in Jesuit emblematics (research assistant)

The Project is part of the coordinated project group Figurations of the religious and the political.