In my paper I provide a review of recent Hungarian research on early modern devotional literature. While the studying of sermons from the period between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries has already been started in the Communist era, texts of prayers and meditations were not sufficiently examined, even though Zsuzsanna Erdélyi has publish...ed various crucial works on archaic Hungarian prayers since 1974. However, in the last few decades several Hungarian research projects, conferences, monographs, volumes of studies and text editions have been published, the historiographical reading of which is one of the main objectives of the present essay. I also wish to survey some foreign publications on these prayers and meditations which might encourage further Hungarian research.
I argue that widowhood (often called “orphanage” in early modern texts) was an important metaphor of the contemporary Hungarian Calvinist Church. Several prayers, prayer books, congregational songs, jeremiads and sermons represented the martyrdom of the Church (and of the Hungarian nation as well) as a “helpless widow”, and lamented in...her name. This cultural and rhetoric pattern was created and prescribed for the communities by several early modern texts, and were based on scriptural quotations from the Old Testament. (For instance: “How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!” Lamentations 1, 1) I examine this metaphor not only in late seventeenth century texts, but also in the eighteenth century, when authors could not write openly about the Calvinist Church because of the new and increased censorship of the Habsburgs and the Catholic settlers in Transylvania. The representational patterns of Calvinist women in the eighteenth century is explored in this study thorough the example of countess Kata Bethlen.
Although the construction of martyrdom has come to the forefront in recent international research on Protestantism, there are only a few Hungarian scholars who have already examined the early modern representations of different religious and national identities from this aspect. The articles collected in this volume aim at shifting the centre o...f Western research on early modern martyrdom towards the Carpathian Basin. We analyse the interconnections, patterns and differences of textual and visual representations of Protestant martyrdom, and explore how the various Western martyr traditions were interpreted and acculturated in early modern Hungary. This volume is based on a conference held in 2011 at the University of Debrecen, and organised by the Research Group for Reformation and Early Modern Cultural History, in cooperation with other scholars of several Hungarian universities. We participate in a collaborative research project, supported by OTKA and TÁMOP funds, in order to extend our understanding of early modern martyrdom.
The Transylvanian Countess, Kata Bethlen’s (1700-1759) autobiography was published in her lifetime, whereas the majority of autobiographies in the 17-18th centuries, especially if it was written by a woman, were circulated as manuscripts, and only very few of these were made public in their age, not just in Hungary but in Europe as well. Alth...ough Bethlen’s book was only published in small numbers but together with her also published prayer book they were enough to make her well-known among women with similar social standing from the second half of 18th century. Several scholars in the 20th century and the wider reading public appreciated autobiographies for their self-investigative and novel-like characteristics. This paper written from a philological perspective argues that by examining the context of early modern autobiographies the interpretation of these can be more accurate. On the one hand, I explore the meaning of Bethlen’s text being on the borderline of manuscripts and published register. On the other hand, I emphasise that in the early modern era we cannot talk about “writers” in the modern sense of the word, especially in the cases of female authors, because secretaries, scribes and court clergymen helped them prepare, circulate, and publish their texts. (This was also true of Kata Bethlen’s work, her text was emended, edited, proof-read, and published by her former court priest and one of the most important Calvinist scholars in 18th century Transylvania: Peter Bod.) Research calls this “collaborative co-authorship”. Finally, the paper offers an interpretative possibility, which introduces Bethlen’s autobiography as a coherent selfrepresentation of widowhood. According to this the forsaken woman’s individual helplessness and suffering can be allegorically understood as the trials of the whole persecuted community, namely the 18th century Transylvanian reformed church.
While we can consider the difficulties of using the cultural trauma theories for texts produced before the nineteenth century, and several hurried interpretation resulted misapplication of these approaches to early modern history and litearature, in this essay I intend to introduce a new British research project, and try to frame by cultural tr...auma theory and its critics. British state prayers, fasts and thankgivings (1540s–1940s) is managed by a research group of the University of Durham, United Kingdom. Participants investigate the tradition of national state prayers, fast or humiliation days, thanksgiving days and national days of prayer.
Special church services were organised and prayers were read in all parish of England as well as Scotland, Ireland and Wales. In particular dates or periods (epidemics, war, famine, rebellion, good/bad harvests, royal births etc.) the King/Queen, the government, and the archbishop of Canterbury, or other church leaders officially ordered special acts of national worship. Prayers and sermons presented the nation as a sinful community, and urged them to practice repentance, because it was thought that calamities will come to an end only, if people convert themselves to God. The research group in Durham is investigating when and how these occasions ordered (by proclamation, privy council order, or by royal request).
From the aspect of cultural trauma theory I compare several official religious interpretations of particular events, and try to highlight the pressure of the authority (monarchy, government) on their political and/or religious counterparts on the one hand, and the battles for special events of national memory on the other hand. Cultural trauma theory offers some formulations for explaining the ’working through’ of political crises and natural calamities from sixteenth to twentieth century, and show us how to consider consequences of devastating loss and pain of a community, whether national and/or religious.
Interpretation of these crises as prompt and continuous reaction to a traditional, Biblical language, may help the community to explain the cathastrophic events, and to develop a necessary condition for working through. This means that there is no latency, which might causes and signs cultural trauma.
Using trauma theories and its critics, I try to find possibilities to transform this international research for a future Hungarian investigation.