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Ranke Meets Gadamer: The Question Of Agency In The Reformation

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Chapter Summary

This chapter begins with the physical remains of what, in Von Ranke's lifetime, was among the most famous schools in Europe. Ranke's influence on the writing of Reformation history remains powerful, both in his explicit linking of the reformation to the emergence of the German nation and in the relationship he constructed between individual human beings and the narrative line of the reformation. Insofar as an individual human being embodies those larger forces, Martin Luther, he is a participant in historical change his participation resides in the fullness of his embodiment, not in any autonomous choice or act. Juxtaposed with Ranke's narrative of the reformation, the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer acquires important resonances for reformation historians. Two dimensions of Gadamer's work are especially illuminating for questions of agency. The first lies in his acute sensitivity to time. The second dimension more directly illuminates a path to an alternative conceptualization of agency.

Keywords: Europe; Hans-Georg Gadamer; Martin Luther; reformation; Von Ranke



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