Amy Burnett, Paula and D.B. Varner University Professor in the Department of History, has been named a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to support work on her research project, The Religious Republic of Letters: Correspondence Networks in Reformation Germany. The twelve-month award, given to researchers who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts, begins in January 2021.
Burnett teaches early modern European history, and her research examines the role of print, preaching, and education in transmitting and transforming religious ideas. The Religious Republic of Letters examines the correspondence network connecting two dozen humanists, pastors, and teachers in Switzerland and South Germany between 1510–1550.
"This network is the missing link between the earlier literary phase of the Republic of Letters and the broader 'commonwealth of learning' of the later sixteenth century," she said.
She will use network analysis and visualization software on a relational database of letters containing over 14,000 letters from nearly 1,500 correspondents.
"I will examine the shape of the network as a whole and consider how humanist epistolography influenced the format of the letters," Burnett said. "I will then analyze the contents under four headings: knowledge transfer, institutional reform, the expression of affect, and the formation of identity.
"Bridging the artificial divide between humanism and the Reformation, my book will make clear how much religious and educational reform owed to Erasmian humanism."
Her books Debating the Sacraments: Print and Authority in the Early Reformation and Origins of the Eucharistic Controversy: A Study in the Circulation of Ideas analyze how authors, editors, translators, and printers shaped public debate in the early Reformation. Teaching the Reformation: Ministers and their Message in Basel won the Gerald Strauss Prize of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference.
Her research has been supported by fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the Fulbright Scholar Program.