Luther and Dreams

Professor Lyndal Roper, Regius Professor of History, Oriel College, University of Oxford, UK

Keynote lecture for the Reformation, Revolution and Crisis in European History, Culture and Political Thought International Conference, at the University of Sydney

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Luther regularly labelled superstition, Catholic dogma, and the beliefs of the Turks and the Jews, as ‘dreams’. ‘Lauter somnia’, pure dreams, was one of his favourite insults, and he liked nothing better than to debunk them. Yet Luther was also fascinated by signs and portents, and though he often joked about dreams, he too noted important dreams.

Dreams also happened to be recorded at key turning points of the Reformation, and they give rare insight into Luther’s deepest anxieties and feelings. Discussed collectively, Luther and his followers used dream interpretations to communicate concerns they did not discuss explicitly. This lecture explores how historians can make use of dreams to understand the subjectivity of people in the past.

THE SPEAKER:

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Professor Lyndal Roper is Regius Professor of History, Oriel College, University of Oxford, and one of the world’s most renowned historians of early modern times. She is the first woman, and the first Australian, to hold the Regius Chair, and in 2016 she received the prestigious Gerda Henkel prize for her ‘trailblazing’ work on social, gender, and psychological history in the age of the Reformation. Her latest book, Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet (2016), is the first historical biography of Luther to be published in English for many decades. She is now writing a history of the German Peasants’ War (1524-5), the greatest uprising in western Europe before the French Revolution. Professor Roper is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and the Brandenburg Akademie der Wissenschaften.


Chair: Professor Peter Morgan, Director of the European Studies Program at the University of Sydney

Discussant: Dr Cat Moir, Department of Germanic Studies, University of Sydney