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Penser l’histoire religieuse au xxie siècle

 | 
Yves Krumenacker
, 
Raymond A. Mentzer

Gender sensitive approach meets Historical research : a case study from the context of the Reformation

Une approche sensible au genre dans la recherche historique : une étude de cas dans le contexte de la Réforme

Sini Mikkola

Résumé

L'intégration du genre comme une catégorie d'analyse dans la recherche historique de la Réforme a eu un succès limité. Cependant, il est crucial d'enquêter sur les femmes et les hommes de l'ère de la Réforme en les reliant à toute leur humanité, y compris à leur genre. Dans cet article, l'importance de l'intégration d'une approche sensible au genre dans la recherche historique est discutée, et le concept de genre est examiné particulièrement en réfléchissant aux perspectives de Judith Butler et Sara Heinämaa. Dans le texte, le genre est traité comme une performance répétée et une manière d'être, construit et reconstruit discursivement par rapport aux autres. S'appuyant sur la discussion de ces perspectives théoriques, une étude de cas sur les manières de Martin Luther de construire sa masculinité est présentée dans la dernière partie de l'article.

Texte intégral

1In the autumn of 2019, I participated in an international seminar on Christian ontology. After giving a paper on human nature and gendered bodiliness in Martin Luther’s thinking, one of the other scholars asked me whether I thought that the « gender issue » really existed in the Reformation Era. This kind of question can, of course, be attributed to the ignorance of a single scholar. However, I would maintain that her inquiry is part of and mirrors well the continued prevalence of a general atmosphere in theological-historical research on the Reformation in the 21st century.

  • 1 I have noted this also in Sini Mikkola, « Manly Women, Feminine Men : Mere Exceptions or Signs of (...)
  • 2 M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit., p. 601.
  • 3 See, e.g., Merry Wiesner, « Beyond Women and the Family : Toward a Gender Analysis of the Reformat (...)
  • 4 See, e.g., Susan Karant-Nunn, « The Reformation Society, Women and the Family », in Andrew Pettegr (...)
  • 5 See, e.g., Lyndal Roper, Oedipus and the Devil : Witchcraft, Sexuality and Religion in Early Moder (...)
  • 6 See, e.g., Ulinka Rublack, The Crimes of Women in Early Modern Germany, Oxford & New York, Clarend (...)
  • 7 See, e.g., Heide Wunder, He is the Sun, She is the Moon : Women in Early Modern Germany, Cambridge (...)

2The mainstream research on the Reformation has focused, and still largely focuses, on male scholars and rulers, doctrines, politics – both ecclesiastical and national – and the historical continuities and discontinuities among male thinkers1. The significance of sixteenth century-women, for example, and the whole perspective of gender history was neglected in Reformation scholarship until the 1980s. Professor Merry Wiesner-Hanks has noted that in the 1970s and 1980s, scholars influenced by the women’s movement came to realize that only « half the story » – that of men – was being told in academia2. Since then, Wiesner-Hanks herself has been one of the leading pioneers in including a gender sensitive approach to Reformation research3. Other scholars include Susan Karant-Nunn4, Lyndal Roper5, Ulinka Rublack6, and Heide Wunder7, to name but a few.

3In this essay, I shall consider the importance of taking a gender sensitive approach as part of (church) historical scholarship and examine the concept of gender especially in the views of Judith Butler and Sara Heinämaa. Focusing the discussion on these theoretical viewpoints, the final part of the essay will investigate, as an example, Martin Luther’s masculinity.

Why all the fuss about gender8?

  • 8 The question is a variant of the title in Caroline Walker Bynum, « Why All the Fuss about the Body (...)
  • 9 Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen, « From Body to Body : A Post-Gender Politics for the Cosmic Homo », Di (...)
  • 10 See, e.g., M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit. (2002), p. 600.
  • 11 Ibid., p. 601. One could also ask whether the same has been done in regard to men, cf. Kenneth Gou (...)

4The effort of multiple scholars to integrate questions of gender into mainstream Reformation research has been successful to a rather limited degree. As associate professor Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen has recently remarked, scholarship on Luther in particular, or on theology in general, seems largely to ignore the other half of humanity, women. One quite recent example that she cites is the Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology (2014) wherein women are taken into account merely in the chapter discussing family life9. This remark resonates well with several other scholars’ view that women have been for the most part brought into historical studies as part of the household and the family10. Adding women to the big picture of the Reformation, the so-called « add women and stir » method coined by Wiesner-Hanks11, has meant that the discussion on womanhood and femininity has most often concentrated on the perspectives of the household, marriage, and sexuality. By categorizing women within these contexts, it has for a long time not been possible to rethink the traditional cultures of interpretation or the constructions we historians have placed on the past.

  • 12 This notion is made also in K. Gouwens, B. Kane, L. Nussdorfer, op. cit., p. 527.

5In addition, the historical subjectivity has continued to privilege men – though often implicitly. In English, as in many other Germanic languages as well, the connotation is in the very language we use : the differentiation between man (as male) and man (as the human being) is not usually made, even in recent scholarship ; rather, they are treated as the same thing. The same goes for source material, written in Germanic languages, which poses an evident challenge for the researcher with an eye to gender12.

  • 13 See, e.g., Notger Slenczka, « Luther’s Anthropology », in Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel and L’ubomίr B (...)

6In the Reformation Era, the prevailing gender system and the language used recreated and maintained gendered dichotomies and hierarchies, wherein male was deemed as normative. Sixteenth-century German theologians, such as Martin Luther, used both concepts, man (Mann) and human being (Mensch) in their texts when discussing the human being. But did these terms include both men and women at all times for Luther? If we believe the studies by the advocates of the traditional and established Luther research program, the answer is positive. In many of the studies concerning, for instance, Luther’s anthropology, the question of the inclusiveness or exclusiveness of these concepts is not addressed at all. The man as the normative human being is such a matter of course that it often seems to be ignored by scholars. The word « man » is simply presumed to represent both sexes13.

  • 14 D. Martin Luther’s Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Weimar, 1883, Band 24, p. 78b-79b (Sermons on G (...)
  • 15 Cf. Gen. 2 : 7, 21-23. Luther explicates this in WA 14, p. 125a, 125b (Sermons on Genesis, manuscr (...)
  • 16 « Aber Christen und Christliche Weiber, die von unsers Herrn Gottes wort wissen, die sagen viel an (...)
  • 17 For the discussion on these topics, see Sini Mikkola, « In Our Body the Scripture Becomes Fulfille (...)

7However, both Mann and Mensch could in fact include only the male gender in Luther’s use. The following example from his Sermons on Genesis is perhaps the most explicit in this regard : « And it is decided that a woman (weib) has been created to be a helper for the human being (des menschen)14 ». Of course, this particular passage is heavily informed by Luther’s reading of the Hebrew text of the Scripture15. However, the differentiation comes up in other contexts that are not directly explained by his use of the Bible. For example, in his sermon Marital Estate Luther made a distinction between « Christians » and « Christian women » in a context where this kind of differentiation was not necessary from the viewpoint of the issue under discussion16. Another closely linked discussion would be the one concerning imago Dei – in some contexts only men represented the image of God for Luther, in others, he included women. Thus, depending on the context, he could count women among humanity or leave them out. The same goes for other Reformation figures, such as Jean Calvin17.

  • 18 Hence, the situation has not altered much in almost twenty years, as the same notion is made in L. (...)
  • 19 As Wiesner-Hanks notes, there has been « an explosion of studies of early modern masculinity », bu (...)
  • 20 See also Martin Dinges (éd.), Hausväter, Priester, Kastraten. Zur Konstruktion von Männlichkeit in (...)

8Even though men were the normative human beings in the sixteenth century and have continued to be in the scholarship concerning the Reformation Era, masculinity per se remains understudied18. Research on masculinity has been rapidly increasing in the field of historical studies during the recent years, especially among medievalists, but in regard to the Reformation, the same cannot be said19. Over a decade after its publication, the collection of essays Masculinity in the Reformation Era (2008), edited by Scott Hendrix and Susan Karant-Nunn, is still one of the rare, and most cited, examples of the studies of men and masculinity within the context of the Reformations20.

  • 21 A somewhat similar notion has been made in K. Gouwens, B. Kane, L. Nussdorfer, op. cit., p. 531-53 (...)
  • 22 For the problematics of generalizations, see also M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit. (2009), p. 352, 359-3 (...)

9Thus, not only more extensive research has to be conducted on both femininity and masculinity but at the same time the ways historical research is undertaken and the questions it poses need to be reconsidered21. It is not sufficient to ask, for example, how women experienced the Reformation or whether women had a Reformation in the first place (that is, in the same sense than men). These kinds of questions are as good as asking, for instance, how men experienced the Enlightenment. Research problems such as these do not lead us anywhere due to their universality22. In reality, some women were furious opponents of the Reformation ; some favored the interpretations of Luther and others ; many probably did not even hear these confessional debates. The same goes for men. Hence, the answer always depends on what and whom we are investigating, and gender is only one of the factors that count. In regard to women, however, simplistic questions are still asked and investigated every now and then. This, consequently, results in oversimplifications of past realities and produces an illusion of some sort of common femaleness (or maleness), that is, an illusion of a homogeneous, gendered group, built upon an idea of a binary system of two, (biologically – whatever that means) different genders.

  • 23 See, e.g., the classical study of Judith Butler, Gender Trouble : Feminism and the Subversion of I (...)

10Critical gender studies have, however, pointed out that « women » and « men » as univocal groups are representations and products of discourses, which capture real-life women and men but poorly, if at all23. A homogeneous group of « women » and « men » does not exist, and has not existed, since a human being is always a myriad of intersecting factors, gender being one of them ; others being are age, social background or class, religious conviction, ethnicity, sexuality, ability and disability.

  • 24 For these topics, see, e.g., Peter Matheson, « Breaking the Silence : Women, Censorship, and the R (...)
  • 25 A similar observation is made in M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit. (2009), p. 364.
  • 26 K. Gouwens, B. Kane, L. Nussdorfer, op. cit., p. 527.

11In order to get as versatile a picture of the past as possible, gender should be taken as a category of analysis when investigating all historical changes, events, and people24. Thus far, Reformation scholars are only beginning to take that path25. Hence, I strongly disagree with the framing of the state of affairs of current scholarship that is presented by Kenneth Gouwens, Brendan Kane and Laurie Nussdorfer the following way : « If historians have come to agree that gender is a useful category of analysis, the place of masculinity within that category remains underexplored »26. The latter part of the notion is correct. I would be very careful, however, in claiming that historians – let alone theologians – in general recognize the significance of gender as an analytical category. Reaching that point requires a lot of effort by scholars working with gender sensitive approaches. In the following, I will sketch ways to conceptualize and treat gender in a historical study.

Investigating gender in a historical study

12One of the pioneers of feminist studies, Joan Wallach Scott sums up the central questions that are posed by the concept of gender :

  • 27 Joan Wallach Scott, Gender and the Politics of History, Revised edition, New York, Columbia Univer (...)

[H]ow and under what conditions different roles and functions had been defined for each sex ; how the very meanings of the categories « man » and « woman » varied according to time and place ; how regulatory norms of sexual deportment were created and enforced ; how issues of power and rights played into questions of masculinity and femininity ; how symbolic structures affected the lives and practices of ordinary people ; how sexual identities were forged within and against social prescriptions.27

  • 28 Ibid., p. 42.
  • 29 J. Butler, op. cit., p. 140.

13Scott emphasizes that gender should be understood first and foremost as a constituent part of social interaction, and constructed on the basis of supposed differences between women and men. As such, gender is a central signifier of power relations28. The same emphasis can be found in Judith Butler’s work, for instance. She describes gender as an act, or to be more precise, a series of acts, a repeated performance, through which an individual attaches herself in (or separates herself from – my notion) the « set of meanings, already socially established […]29 ». Butler continues :

  • 30 Ibid., p. 141.

If gender attributes, however, are not expressive but performative, then these attributes effectively constitute the identity they are said to express or reveal. […] There would be no true or false, real or distorted acts of gender, and the postulation of a true gender identity would be revealed as a regulatory fiction. That gender reality is created through sustained social performances means that the very notions of an essential sex and a true or abiding masculinity or femininity are also constituted as part of a strategy that conceals gender’s performative character […].30

  • 31 The last observation is made in U. Rublack, op. cit., (2002), p. 1.

14The meaning-making processes of gender are, thus, heavily contextual and bound to the historical situation31. Gender, as both Scott and Butler describe it, is a product of different linguistic negotiations and power structures between individuals and within communities during different time periods. Evidently, talk about gender is talk about relationality.

  • 32 Sara Heinämaa, Ele, tyyli ja sukupuoli : Merleau-Pontyn ja Beauvoirin ruumiinfenomenologia ja sen (...)

15Finnish philosopher, Professor Sara Heinämaa has come to a somewhat similar conclusion as Judith Butler in her gender analysis. Heinämaa’s primary inspiration in theorizing gender is the idea of bodily phenomenology, as it is discussed by French feminist philosophers Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), Luce Irigaray (1930-), and philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961). Heinämaa especially uses the discussions on the ethics of the gender difference by Irigaray, and the concept of the lived body by Merleau-Ponty to open Beauvoir’s existentialist notions of women and men and her bodily phenomenology in a fresh way32.

  • 33 Ibid., p. 162, 174.
  • 34 Ibid., p. 160-161.

16In Heinämaa’s view, the philosophical questions concerning bodiliness, meaning, doing, and being are connected to the concept of gender in an integral way. Hence, gender is not essential nor is it a permanent norm. Gender itself is a philosophical problem, and thus, gender difference is something more than the debate about biology or anatomy, and social relations33. In a similar fashion to Butler, whose focal idea is that of gender being a repeated performance, Heinämaa outlines gender as a style and a way of being. Her central claim is that it is impossible to qualify what is a woman or a man. Instead, the question should be how to be a woman or a man34. In other words, gender as a style or a way of being surpasses the limits of biology, culture, and social relations, for instance, and allows for the dynamism, openness, and porousness of gender.

  • 35 Ibid., p. 161.

17When considered as a way of being, gender difference must be also rethought, as Heinämaa notes. The idea of gendered style widens the perspective in a way that the differences between women and men are more easily perceived as greater than organic or bodily, since the gender difference can be seen to actualize in, for example, thoughts, language, different spaces and objects, and so forth. Gender difference comes thus to cover not only the difference between women and men but also the various differences between the representatives of the same gender35. When gender is understood as a way of being, it is easier to see the multiplicity of factors that construct femininity and masculinity. Thus, in this theoretical framework, gender carries the intersectional nature of the human being within it.

  • 36 Ibid., 161-162.
  • 37 This problematic is explicated also in Jacqueline Murray, « One Flesh, Two Sexes, Three Genders ?  (...)
  • 38 Opposing views to this exist, of course. For example, retelling the idea of Gilbert Herdt, Jacquel (...)
  • 39 S. Heinämaa, op. cit., p. 162.

18By treating gender as a style and a way of being as Heinämaa, or a repeated performance as Butler, we do not have to use, for example, a category of third gender(s) when discussing styles or ways of being that seem to be something in between femininity and masculinity and thus set the individual in the borderland between the two. Heinämaa sees these « in-between » styles as points of blending or dispersion rather than distinct categories of permanent identities36. The idea of a third gender is, indeed, somewhat problematic, since it can include a great variety of people in terms of, for example, sexuality, bodily composition, and, as in the case of the sixteenth century, religious status. The problem lies in the question of the amount of third genders we would have to create in order to explain all the in-between features and still be able to use the category in a meaningful way37. The idea of a third gender actually fortifies the binary of the gender system by creating a group (or various groups) of « others » who do not fit into the two hegemonic category38. Even though the idea of gendered style also may drive the binary forward, it can also disturb it39, by way of emphasizing the porousness of what it means to be a woman or a man. As Heinämaa remarks :

  • 40 Ibid., p. 161. Butler’s thinking is very similar also in here, as she criticizes the view of a per (...)

When we understand gender identity as the identity of style, womanhood appears open and varying. We can speak of « women » without the need to postulate an object or a quality that is shared by all « women ». Vice versa : we can speak of the radical organic, functional, and experiential differences between women without the need to give up the concept of gender identity – as some contemporary authors have suggested40.

  • 41 S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 230. For reading Luther’s texts between the lines, see Elisabeth G (...)

19In historical research, it is always essential to consider the possible anachronism of the theoretical frameworks used. Luther, for instance, did not spend much time and effort to ponder whether certain features, moves, uses of language, or spaces were more feminine or masculine – his concerns were elsewhere, often in the questions that related to the God-human being relationship and salvation. He, however, did have a very clear idea of the genderedness of certain matters. This often comes up very explicitly in his texts ; less frequently, Luther has to be read between the lines41.

  • 42 S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 234-235, 237 et passim.
  • 43 I have examined the exceeding of gendered boundaries most recently in S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2019), (...)

20Even though Luther’s general idea of women and men was firmly based on the binary gender system, and was quite unchanging and largely in accordance to his medieval heritage42, he also discussed femininity and masculinity in ways that could be deemed gender blending43. Thus, the theoretical framework of gender as a repeated performance and a style is, from my point of view, very productive in examining Luther’s insights on how to be a woman or a man. It is especially useful in deciphering the borders between normal and abnormal, rule and exception, acceptable and forbidden in Luther’s texts, in tracing the various connections between thoughts, actions, emotions, and the human body, and in pondering the meaning of the ever-changing time and context – both textual and historical – to these. In what follows, I will sketch Luther’s narration of his masculinity on the eve of his change of direction in 1525 from an Augustinian monk to a husband, by using the idea of gendered way of being and that of a repeated performance, and thus show the crucial importance of taking gender as one category of analysis in historical research.

Luther’s male way of being – a repeated performance of monastic masculinity

21Explanations of the question of why Luther did not abandon his habit until 1524, and did not marry until 1525, have been multiple in modern scholarship, and touched, for example, Luther’s personality, the common beliefs of the time, and social and political factors. References to the role of his masculinity and gendered self-understanding in this process have been close to zero.

  • 44 Carter Lindberg, The European Reformations, Oxford, Malden, Blackwell Publishing, 1996, p. 101 ; L (...)
  • 45 Kaarlo Arffman, Mitä oli luterilaisuus ? Helsinki, Helsinki University Press, 1996, p. 40-45.
  • 46 Lyndal Roper, Martin Luther : Renegade and Prophet, London, The Bodley Head, 2016, p. 273, 278. Se (...)
  • 47 Scott Hendrix, « Luther’s Communities », dans Richard L. DeMolen (éd.), Leaders of the Reformation(...)
  • 48 C. Lindberg, op. cit., p. 99.

22Oft-repeated reasons, supported by Luther’s own explanations, have been his will to oppose the devil, provoke the pope, and meet the expectations of his father44. Professors Lyndal Roper and Kaarlo Arffman, for instance, have highlighted contextual factors. While Arffman has presumed that Luther’s expectation of the apocalypse and the parousia of Christ was one of the main reasons for his hesitation – there was no time left to marry since the end of the world was expected to take place in February 152445 –, Roper for her part explains the hesitation by way of the role of John von Staupitz. In Roper’s opinion, the death of Staupitz, Luther’s « spiritual father », may have allowed him finally to consider becoming a father himself. For Luther’s change of mind, the end of the Peasants’ War and the death of the elector of Saxony in 1525 were of importance from Roper’s point of view46. Personal reasons for Luther’s late decision have been offered, for example, by professors Heiko Oberman and Scott Hendrix, who both consider that Luther’s attachment to the identity of a friar was stronger than his desire to act at the same pace as many of his colleagues47. An important viewpoint to the change in Luther’s life is the notion of Professor Carter Lindberg that the reformers, including Luther, could not in the long run promote marriage credibly without marrying themselves48. My claim is that one of the keys to the matter is Luther’s self-understanding of his masculine way of being, which appears in the way he repeated the performance of his masculinity.

  • 49 The first marriages of the evangelical-leaning pastors took place already in 1521. See, e.g., Thom (...)
  • 50 WA BR 2, no 426, p. 377 (to Georg Spalatin, August 6, 1521).
  • 51 WA BR 2, no 428, p. 385 (to Philipp Melanchthon, September 9, 1521).
  • 52 WA BR 2, no 446, p. 415 (to Wenzel Linck, December 18, 1521).
  • 53 For these exceptions, see, e.g., WA 8, 584 (On Monastic Vows 1521) ; WA 10II, 277, 279 (On Married (...)

23In 1521, radical winds of change were blowing in Wittenberg. Luther was hiding at the Wartburg castle after his excommunication and pronouncement as an outlaw, and Philipp Melanchthon and Andreas Karlstadt were among the leading figures of the rather new evangelical movement in Luther’s hometown. One of the central questions was that of clerical marriage : on what grounds could it be justified and would it encompass monks and nuns in addition to secular clerics49 ? In the midst of taking part on these debates via letters, Luther announced his own position : « Oh God, are our people in Wittenberg going to give wives even to monks ? They will not force a wife on me50 ! » He returned to the same question of marrying a few weeks later, refusing even to think about it in his own case51. Luther noted that should the world not change, he would keep to his monastic robes and custom52. Did Luther thus deem himself as one of the rare people who could lead a spiritual life without satisfying sexual needs53 ? They were, in his opinion, the only ones who could be exempted from marriage.

24This seems hardly to be the case. Namely, when reminiscing about the beginning of his monastic life and explaining his experiences during the first years as an Augustinian hermit, Luther remarked :

  • 54 WA 8, p. 660 (On Monastic Vows 1521).

I myself, along with many others, have experienced how peaceful and quiet Satan was wont to be in the first year of being a priest and monk. Nothing seemed more delightful than chastity. But this most insidious enemy did this to lead us into temptation and into his trap. […] It may happen that you lived chastely for not one, but for two or three years, and later the flesh burned and the veins boiled, when Satan blew his fiery breaths that made the coals burn (as it is said in Job). Certainly, you could not control [yourself]. Therefore, the test of chastity cannot be made when lust keeps quiet, but when it rages.54

  • 55 See also S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 149.
  • 56 L. Roper, op. cit. (2001), p. 296 ; R. M. Karras, op. cit., p. 53-57, 64, 66-67 ; Ruth Mazo Karras(...)

25Luther thus admitted to being a man whose bodily desires were strong despite the spiritual life he was aiming for in the monastery55. This was not exceptional, for sexual desire was regarded as a natural part of the masculine way of being long before and during the sixteenth century, and in the case of clerics as well. Sexual activity – even aggressiveness – belonged to a way of being that was allowed for and expected of all men. Simultaneously, however, men were expected to control their sexual impulses. Thus, both virility and self-control were the building blocks of a medieval masculine way of being. The difference between the masculinity of the laity and especially that of monks was constructed by emphasizing God’s assistance in the struggle of the latter. In other words, monks could succeed in their struggle better than other men, since God himself helped them to keep their vows of chastity and continence56. To quote Professor Jennifer Thibodeaux’s description of the crucial connection between self-control and masculine way of being of the cloistered :

  • 57 J. Thibodeaux, op. cit., p. 23, 25. For the suspicion concerning secular clerics, see, e.g., T. Fu (...)

The self-controlled moderation of monastic men was frequently portrayed in contrast to the disorderly clerics who lacked the proper qualities to govern. […] Those who cannot control their bodies are not intended to lead. […] Entrance into the monastic life led to a stricter life, and one became more masculinized as a result. For those who left this life, their bodies once again became penetrable, lax, and less manly.57

  • 58 For the outcome of the inevitably unsuccessful self-control in Luther’s rhetoric, see, e.g., WA 10(...)
  • 59 WA 8, 658 (On Monastic Vows 1521). See also WA 8, 659 ; WA 11, 398.

26In Luther’s opinion, as well as in that of other like-minded, the struggle and self-discipline of monks was impossible and thus neither continence nor remaining in the cloister were within the realm of possibility58. As Luther pointed out : « [H]ow can a celibate vow to be chaste if the thing absolutely is not or cannot be in his hands – when it [chastity] is only the gift of God, which a human being can receive, not offer59? » The role of God in the matter of continence was accentuated whilst the role of the man himself was diminished to nonexistent. Hence, the former ideal of clerical struggle was made unequivocally pointless.

  • 60 WA 12, 241 (Exhortation 1523). See also WA 17I, 22-23 (Marital Estate 1525), wherein Luther notes (...)

27Luther’s emphases concerning the proper evangelical male way of being remained more or less the same throughout the years, and they are elucidated, inter alia, in the Exhortation to the Teutonic Order in 1523. In the text, Luther noted that the man was to « raise and teach children, rule the wife and servants in godly fashion, support himself by the sweat of the brow, and bear much misfortune and unhappiness from the part of the wife, child, servants, and others »60. The manly way of being consisted, hence, of wisdom (to teach and rule), piety, self-control – in the sense of forbearance – and diligence. Implicitly, the self-evident cornerstone of masculinity was the sexual ability to produce offspring.

  • 61 Spalatin’s position is noted and ruminated in, e.g., Lyndal Roper, « ’To his Most Learned and Dear (...)
  • 62 WA BR 3, no. 800, p. 394, (to Georg Spalatin, November 30, 1524) : « ’[…] non quod carnem meam aut (...)
  • 63 WA BR 3, no. 857, p. 474-475 (to Georg Spalatin, April 16, 1525).

28By the end of 1524, however, Luther had not shown any hint of being interested in reconstructing his own way of being in accordance with the evangelical model of masculinity. In fact, Luther strengthened his position as the virile yet sexually self-controlled monastic male in his letters to Georg Spalatin, the intermediary between Luther and the elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise61. In November 1524, Luther deemed that marriage was not possible for him, but not for physical reasons. Quite the opposite, he announced to be neither asexual nor as good as wood or stone62. In the spring 1525, Luther continued with the issue, denying Spalatin the opportunity to express amazement at his rebuff of marital life – even though he was a well-known loving person. Instead, he wrote, what was worth wondering was the fact that he had not turned into a woman by then, due to constantly meeting so many women and writing about marriage63.

  • 64 T. Fudge, op. cit., p. 330-331 ; L. Roper, op. cit. (2016), p. 275 ; S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), (...)
  • 65 For a contemporary account of the suspicions faced, see, e.g., the writing of a lay reformer Katha (...)

29Luther’s fame as a loving person points in at least two directions. The most obvious reference is his dealing with the nuns, including Katharina von Bora, who escaped from the Cistercian abbey at Nimbschen with his help in the spring 1523, and whose adjustment to society Luther had since furthered64. Another parallel reference could be made to the common suspicions regarding the sexuality of the evangelicals. In their polemics, the opponents of the evangelical movement tried to convince people that the theology and its implications (such as clerical marriage) of the evangelicals were fueled by their sexual lust and had practically nothing to do with God or belief65. As the most prominent leader of the movement, Luther naturally faced suspicions and all sorts of rumors concerning his sexuality multiple times even before his marriage.

  • 66 An introduction to humoral theory, see Danijela Kambaskovic, « Humoral Theory », in Susan Broomhal (...)
  • 67 S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 151-152.

30Luther’s aim in both of the letters to Spalatin was to construct an image of his masculinity as virile, strong, and self-controlled. He thus continued to reject marital life in similar fashion as in 1521 but attached a description of his manly way of being to it. Thus, even though he was forced to validate his lifestyle, as the social pressure to marry intensified during the years, he did not do it at the expense of his masculinity but by emphasizing it, via a repeated verbal performance. The notions concerning his masculine way of being as an opposition to the coldness and stiffness of stones and wood present Luther as a lively, moist, and warm – if not even hot – man. The two latter were commonly regarded to be the best manly combination from the viewpoint of reproduction66. However, in parallel with virility, Luther highlighted his strong and controlled manhood by remarking upon his steadfastness in the middle of a bunch of women67. Even though the walls of the cloister had crumbled in Luther’s rhetoric, his implicit message until spring 1525 was that his own inner walls, his manly way of being, had not changed.

  • 68 L. Roper, op. cit. (2010), p. 288.
  • 69 L. Roper, op. cit. (2016), p. 278.
  • 70 S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 150. For a notion of Luther’s overall aim to maintain his plausibi (...)

31Two notions of Lyndal Roper are of utmost importance on the question of Luther’s performance of his masculinity. The first is Roper’s remark : « To understand Luther, it is key to know that his relationship with the prince [Frederick the Wise] was always one of deep respect and obedience68 ». She has also pointed out that « […] the death of Friedrich the Wise marked a point of transition [for Luther’s change of the course of his life]69 ». These remarks are one important key in explaining Luther’s aim to highlight his masculine way of being, on the one hand, and his repeated announcement of not getting married, on the other. By tying his way of being to the traditional monastic ideal of masculinity, and thus representing himself as a man able to govern not only himself but also others, Luther signaled to Frederick the Wise through Spalatin that he was – and continued to be – the proper leader of the evangelical movement. I have noted earlier that at least in 1521, « Luther wanted to be separated from the more radical evangelicals [in the eyes of the elector], such as Karlstadt, who were presently not only leading the reforms in Wittenberg [at an overly fast pace] but also themselves marrying70 ». It is most likely that the personal politics that Luther had adopted in 1521 defined his action until the death of the elector.

  • 71 WA BR 3, no. 860, p. 482 (to Johann Rühel May 4 (5?), 1525). Rühel was one of the rare people Luth (...)

32The importance of the triangle of Luther’s performance of his masculinity, his implicit insistence on maintaining leadership in the evangelical movement, and the relations towards the elector who continually guaranteed his safety, becomes clearer in light of Luther’s actions in May 1525. On the day of Frederick the Wise’s death, or perhaps a day before, only three weeks after his last defense of his single life, Luther announced his impending marriage71.

Conclusions

33It is crucial to investigate not only women but also men of the past by tying them to their whole humanity, including their gender. Otherwise the interpretation of the past can and will remain incomplete. In this essay, I have used the ideas of Butler and Heinämaa on gender as a repeated performance or a way of being that is continually reconstructed discursively in relation to the surrounding people. This theoretical approach has proved to be fruitful in the context of the sixteenth century. The case study of Luther’s performance of his masculine way of being proves the necessity of including gender as a category of analysis in historical research. The way Luther repeatedly articulated his masculinity is an essential viewpoint in explaining why he chose the single life for such a long period. In fact, it seems that the question of his masculinity bears on many of the former explanations of Reformation scholars regarding, for example, the significance of Luther’s identity as a friar, the growing pressure to marry, and the relevance of other figures of religious-political importance around Luther.

34Luther’s discursive construction of his masculinity was a series of rhetorical acts that were executed in relation to his colleagues and his patron the elector. These acts placed Luther in a different position than other men of his time for, as I claim in this text, highly political reasons. Whilst he in general wanted to break with the ideal of monastic masculinity, in his own case he continued to perform his masculinity in accordance with it. It seems that the remark of Thibodeaux that medieval monastics were « more masculinized » due to their strict life holds true for Luther’s way of constructing his masculinity before and on the eve of his marriage. His intention in justifying his single life was to emphasize continually that he was not becoming lax or less manly but continued to lead the evangelical movement as a manly man capable of self-control and the control of others as well.

Notes

1 I have noted this also in Sini Mikkola, « Manly Women, Feminine Men : Mere Exceptions or Signs of Inclusive Thinking ? Alternative Readings of Martin Luther’s Anthropology », in Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen (éd.), The Alternative Luther : Lutheran Theology from the Subaltern, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2019, p. 137. For similar notions, see also Elsie Anne McKee, Katharina Schütz Zell : The Life and Thought of a Sixteenth-Century Reformer, Leiden, Brill, 1999, p. xi ; Merry Wiesner-Hanks, « Women, Gender, and Church History », Church History, 2002, no 71-3, p. 614.

2 M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit., p. 601.

3 See, e.g., Merry Wiesner, « Beyond Women and the Family : Toward a Gender Analysis of the Reformation », The Sixteenth Century Journal, 1987, no 18-3, p. 311-321 ; « Merry Wiesner-Hanks, « Gender and the Reformation », Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, 2009, no 100-1, p. 350-365 ; « Disembodied Theory ? Discourses of Sex in Early Modern Germany Women and Men », in Ulinka Rublack (éd.), Gender in Early Modern German History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 152-173 ; « Together and Apart », dans Peter Matheson (éd.), Reformation Christianity, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2010, p. 143-167 ; Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe. New Approaches to European History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011.

4 See, e.g., Susan Karant-Nunn, « The Reformation Society, Women and the Family », in Andrew Pettegree (éd.), The Reformation World, London & New York, Routledge, 2002, p. 433-460 ; « Changing One’s Mind », Renaissance Quarterly, 2005, no 58-4, p. 1101-1127.

5 See, e.g., Lyndal Roper, Oedipus and the Devil : Witchcraft, Sexuality and Religion in Early Modern Europe, London & New York, Routledge, 1997 ; « Gender and the Reformation », Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, 2001, no 92, p. 290-302.

6 See, e.g., Ulinka Rublack, The Crimes of Women in Early Modern Germany, Oxford & New York, Clarendon Press, 1998 ; « Meanings of Gender in Early Modern German History », in Ulinka Rublack (éd.), Gender in Early Modern German History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 1-18.

7 See, e.g., Heide Wunder, He is the Sun, She is the Moon : Women in Early Modern Germany, Cambridge & London, Harvard University Press, 1998 ; « Frauen in der Reformation : Rezeptions-und historiographiegeschichtliche Überlegungen », Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, 2001, no 92, p. 303-320 ; « What Made a Man a Man ? Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Findings », in Ulinka Rublack (éd.), Gender in Early Modern German History, op. cit., p. 21-48.

8 The question is a variant of the title in Caroline Walker Bynum, « Why All the Fuss about the Body ? A Medievalist’s Perspective », Critical Inquiry, 1995, no 22-1, p. 1-33.

9 Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen, « From Body to Body : A Post-Gender Politics for the Cosmic Homo », Dialog : A Journal of Theology, 2018, no 57, p. 186. For similar notions, see M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit. (2009), p. 364-365.

10 See, e.g., M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit. (2002), p. 600.

11 Ibid., p. 601. One could also ask whether the same has been done in regard to men, cf. Kenneth Gouwens, Brendan Kane, Laurie Nussdorfer, « Reading for gender », European Review of History : Revue européenne d’histoire, no 22 : 4, 2015, p. 531. The essay is an introduction to the special issue of the journal, entitled History of Early Modern Masculinities, and it contains a host of references to scholarship on masculinity, worth looking at.

12 This notion is made also in K. Gouwens, B. Kane, L. Nussdorfer, op. cit., p. 527.

13 See, e.g., Notger Slenczka, « Luther’s Anthropology », in Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel and L’ubomίr Batka (éd.), The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 212-232 ; Anna Vind, « The Human Being According to Luther », in Anne Eusterschulte & Hannah Wälzholz (éd.), Anthropological Reformations - Anthropology in the Era of Reformation, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015, p. 69-85 ; Ilmari Karimies, « Martin Luther’s Concept of the Human Being », dans Religion : Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016, 29 p.

14 D. Martin Luther’s Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Weimar, 1883, Band 24, p. 78b-79b (Sermons on Genesis, printed 1527). Henceforth referred to as WA (established abbreviation of the Weimarer Ausgabe).

15 Cf. Gen. 2 : 7, 21-23. Luther explicates this in WA 14, p. 125a, 125b (Sermons on Genesis, manuscripts 1523-1524).

16 « Aber Christen und Christliche Weiber, die von unsers Herrn Gottes wort wissen, die sagen viel anders und, wenn sie gleich hoeren und erfaren diese unnd andere jamer im Ehstande ». WA 17I, p. 25 (Marital Estate 1525).

17 For the discussion on these topics, see Sini Mikkola, « In Our Body the Scripture Becomes Fulfilled » : Gendered Bodiliness and the Making of the Gender System in Martin Luther’s Anthropology (1520-1530), PhD diss., University of Helsinki, 2017, p. 82-83, and the literature cited there.

18 Hence, the situation has not altered much in almost twenty years, as the same notion is made in L. Roper, op. cit. (2001), p. 294 and later in, e.g., M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit. (2009), p. 351.

19 As Wiesner-Hanks notes, there has been « an explosion of studies of early modern masculinity », but those studies contain only little examination on « any religious issues ». See M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit. (2009), p. 361.

20 See also Martin Dinges (éd.), Hausväter, Priester, Kastraten. Zur Konstruktion von Männlichkeit in Spätmittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1998. The lack of studies focusing on the Early Modern Era is noted also in K. Gouwens, B. Kane, L. Nussdorfer, op. cit., p. 527. There is a greater number of publications on medieval masculinities at hand. See, e.g., Clare A. Lees, Thelma Fenster, Jo Ann McNamara (éd.), Medieval Masculinities : Regarding Men in the Middle Ages, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1994 ; Dawn M. Hadley (éd.), Masculinity in Medieval Europe, London, Longman, 1999 ; Ruth Mazo Karras, From Boys to Men. Formations of Masculinity in Late Medieval Europe, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003 ; Frederick Kiefer (éd.), Masculinities and Femininities in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Turnhout, Brepols, 2009 ; Jennifer D. Thibodeaux, The Manly Priest : Clerical Celibacy, Masculinity, and Reform in England and Normandy, 1066-1300, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Press, 2015.

21 A somewhat similar notion has been made in K. Gouwens, B. Kane, L. Nussdorfer, op. cit., p. 531-532. For an overview on the scholarship on women and the Reformation, see M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit. (2009), p. 352-359.

22 For the problematics of generalizations, see also M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit. (2009), p. 352, 359-360.

23 See, e.g., the classical study of Judith Butler, Gender Trouble : Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New York & London, Routledge, 1990, p. 142 ; for a more recent discussion, see Kattis Honkanen, « Equality Politics out of the Subaltern », in Eva Magnusson, Malin Rönnblom, Harriet Silius (éd.), Critical Studies of Gender Equalities : Nordic Dislocations, Dilemmas and Contradictions, Göteborg & Stockholm, Makadam Publishers, 2008, esp. p. 213-215.

24 For these topics, see, e.g., Peter Matheson, « Breaking the Silence : Women, Censorship, and the Reformation », Sixteenth Century Journal, no 27 : 1, 1996, p. 98 ; U. Rublack, op. cit., (2002), esp. p. 2-7 ; M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit. (2002), p. 602.

25 A similar observation is made in M. Wiesner-Hanks, op. cit. (2009), p. 364.

26 K. Gouwens, B. Kane, L. Nussdorfer, op. cit., p. 527.

27 Joan Wallach Scott, Gender and the Politics of History, Revised edition, New York, Columbia University Press, 1999, p. xi.

28 Ibid., p. 42.

29 J. Butler, op. cit., p. 140.

30 Ibid., p. 141.

31 The last observation is made in U. Rublack, op. cit., (2002), p. 1.

32 Sara Heinämaa, Ele, tyyli ja sukupuoli : Merleau-Pontyn ja Beauvoirin ruumiinfenomenologia ja sen merkitys sukupuolikysymykselle, Helsinki, Gaudeamus, 1996, p. 3, 9-11 et passim.

33 Ibid., p. 162, 174.

34 Ibid., p. 160-161.

35 Ibid., p. 161.

36 Ibid., 161-162.

37 This problematic is explicated also in Jacqueline Murray, « One Flesh, Two Sexes, Three Genders ? », in Lisa M. Bitel, Felice Lifshitz (éd.), Gender and Christianity in Medieval Europe : New Perspectives, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008, p. 36.

38 Opposing views to this exist, of course. For example, retelling the idea of Gilbert Herdt, Jacqueline Murray is of the opinion that third gender in fact disturbs the balance of the binary gender system. J. Murray, op. cit., esp. p. 37.

39 S. Heinämaa, op. cit., p. 162.

40 Ibid., p. 161. Butler’s thinking is very similar also in here, as she criticizes the view of a permanent gender identity and is in favor of gender identity that is constructed in time as a « stylized repetition of acts ». See J. Butler, op. cit., p. 140.

41 S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 230. For reading Luther’s texts between the lines, see Elisabeth Gerle, Sinnlighetens närvaro : Luther mellan kroppskult och kroppsförakt, Stockholm, Verbum, 2015, p. 26, 45.

42 S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 234-235, 237 et passim.

43 I have examined the exceeding of gendered boundaries most recently in S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2019), and based my discussion on the aim to prove that Luther’s thinking about proper gendered ways of being was multiple and varied greatly according to time and context. For gender blending, see, e.g., Holly Devor, Gender Blending : Confronting the Limits of Duality, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1989 ; Richard Ekins, Dave King (éd.), Blending Genders : Social Aspects of Cross-Dressing and Sex-Changing, London, New York, Routledge, 1996.

44 Carter Lindberg, The European Reformations, Oxford, Malden, Blackwell Publishing, 1996, p. 101 ; L. Roper, op. cit. (2016), p. 273, 277-278.

45 Kaarlo Arffman, Mitä oli luterilaisuus ? Helsinki, Helsinki University Press, 1996, p. 40-45.

46 Lyndal Roper, Martin Luther : Renegade and Prophet, London, The Bodley Head, 2016, p. 273, 278. See also S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 150, 164.

47 Scott Hendrix, « Luther’s Communities », dans Richard L. DeMolen (éd.), Leaders of the Reformation, London, Associated University Presses, 1984, p. 47 ; Heiko Oberman, The Two Reformations. The Journey from the Last Days to the New World (éd. Donald Weinstein), New Haven, London, Yale University Press, 2003, p. 54.

48 C. Lindberg, op. cit., p. 99.

49 The first marriages of the evangelical-leaning pastors took place already in 1521. See, e.g., Thomas Fudge, « Incest and Lust in Luther’s Marriage : Theology and Morality in Reformation Polemics », The Sixteenth Century Journal, 2003, no 34-2, p. 324.

50 WA BR 2, no 426, p. 377 (to Georg Spalatin, August 6, 1521).

51 WA BR 2, no 428, p. 385 (to Philipp Melanchthon, September 9, 1521).

52 WA BR 2, no 446, p. 415 (to Wenzel Linck, December 18, 1521).

53 For these exceptions, see, e.g., WA 8, 584 (On Monastic Vows 1521) ; WA 10II, 277, 279 (On Married Life 1522).

54 WA 8, p. 660 (On Monastic Vows 1521).

55 See also S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 149.

56 L. Roper, op. cit. (2001), p. 296 ; R. M. Karras, op. cit., p. 53-57, 64, 66-67 ; Ruth Mazo Karras, « Thomas Aquinas’s Chastity Belt : Clerical Masculinity in Medieval Europe », in Lisa M. Bitel, Felice Lifshitz (éd.), Gender and Christianity in Medieval Europe : New Perspectives, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008, p. 56 ; Caroline Walker Bynum, Fragmentation and Redemption : Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion, New York, Zone Books, 2012, p. 151, 156.

57 J. Thibodeaux, op. cit., p. 23, 25. For the suspicion concerning secular clerics, see, e.g., T. Fudge, op. cit., p. 327.

58 For the outcome of the inevitably unsuccessful self-control in Luther’s rhetoric, see, e.g., WA 10II, p. 156 (Against the Spiritual Estate 1522). For the polemics among the evangelicals, see, e.g., Joel Harrington, Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation Germany, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005, esp. p. 62-63.

59 WA 8, 658 (On Monastic Vows 1521). See also WA 8, 659 ; WA 11, 398.

60 WA 12, 241 (Exhortation 1523). See also WA 17I, 22-23 (Marital Estate 1525), wherein Luther notes that this expectation of proper way of being concerns every man, despite one’s occupation or social standing.

61 Spalatin’s position is noted and ruminated in, e.g., Lyndal Roper, « ’To his Most Learned and Dearest Friend’ : Reading Luther’s letters », German History, 2010, no 28-3, esp. p. 287.

62 WA BR 3, no. 800, p. 394, (to Georg Spalatin, November 30, 1524) : « ’[…] non quod carnem meam aut sexum meum non sentiam, cum neque lignum neque lapis sim […] ».

63 WA BR 3, no. 857, p. 474-475 (to Georg Spalatin, April 16, 1525).

64 T. Fudge, op. cit., p. 330-331 ; L. Roper, op. cit. (2016), p. 275 ; S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 151.

65 For a contemporary account of the suspicions faced, see, e.g., the writing of a lay reformer Katharina Schütz Zell, « Entschuldigung Katharina Schützinn / für Matthes Zellen / jren Eegemahel / der ein Pfarrher und dyener ist im wort Gottes zů Straβburg. Von wegen grosser lügen uff jn erdiecht », in Elsie Anne McKee (éd.), Katharina Schütz Zell : The Writings, A Critical Edition, Leiden, Brill, p. 21-47. Luther was suspected of being led by lust, also among his supporters, especially after his wedding. See, e.g., T. Fudge, op. cit., esp. p. 332-334, 336-338.

66 An introduction to humoral theory, see Danijela Kambaskovic, « Humoral Theory », in Susan Broomhall (éd.), Early Modern Emotions : An Introduction, London, New York, Routledge, 2017, p. 39-42.

67 S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 151-152.

68 L. Roper, op. cit. (2010), p. 288.

69 L. Roper, op. cit. (2016), p. 278.

70 S. Mikkola, op. cit. (2017), p. 150. For a notion of Luther’s overall aim to maintain his plausibility in the authorities’ eyes, see U. Rublack, op. cit. (2005), p. 47.

71 WA BR 3, no. 860, p. 482 (to Johann Rühel May 4 (5?), 1525). Rühel was one of the rare people Luther told beforehand of his marriage plans.

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