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Luther and Literacy

H. G. Haile
PMLA
Vol. 91, No. 5 (Oct., 1976), pp. 816-828
DOI: 10.2307/461557
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/461557
Page Count: 13
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Luther and Literacy
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Abstract

Luther studies have traditionally been confessionally oriented. Today, this author's significance is also secular, and it is most readily interpreted by disinterested literature teachers. Disputes about his writings radically increased European literacy rates. His songs and pamphlets engaged popular tradition in order to achieve broad, democratic appeal. Aside from the increase in readership after 1518, Luther as critic and interpreter brought about a more important qualitative change in literacy. In this way, he influenced writings of other lands and of later centuries. He treated the Bible as literature with great relevance to the individual life. Karl Holl and Heinrich Bornkamm give excellent accounts of his hermeneutics, but the literature student is most impressed by Luther's imaginative participation in the text. He took his contemporaries and countrymen into account, and their experiences, in order to achieve a meeting between their passions and those of the biblical authors.

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