University of Erfurt

Gotha Research Centre of the University of Erfurt

Projekt von Kevin Chovanec M.A.

“Pan-Protestant Heroism in Early Modern England”

My current project builds on my dissertation, which explored transnational religious identification in England by tracing the written response to and construction of the Protestant heroes of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Along with a growing number of critics interested in early modern transnationalism, I began to question the scholarly narrative that claimed the early modern period as a central moment for English nation-writing. Too many writers continued to prioritize alternative, hybrid, especially religious, identities, and the concept of the nation was clearly in flux. As a way of tracing literature and identities across national borders, I followed the tradition of continental Protestant heroism, extending from Willem van Oranje through Gustavus Adolphus, and explored how English participation in the church (another rapidly changing imagined community) allowed them to appropriate and celebrate the continental leaders. I argue that these continental figures, along with the networks and literature associated with them, profoundly shaped English identity in the early modern period. The transnational lens of pan-Protestant heroism uncovers literary communities and collaboration often forgotten and places even canonical English authors – like Edmund Spenser – in novel, transnational contexts. I am particularly interested in the ways early modern writers and audiences remained connected, how alterity itself was unstable and uncertain, open to negotiation.

Though my dissertation project focused most prominently on English writers, it revealed that a full understanding of these authors will demand a more multilingual approach. Currently, I am surveying Dutch, German, and Neo-Latin writing on the central figures of militant Pan-Protestantism. I would like to make the case that these heroes became icons within a vibrant pan-Protestant literary field that existed in the early modern period, multilingual, transnational, and widely divergent from our modern conception of literature.

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