Aesthetics of Protestantism in Northern Europe

What was the impact of Protestantism on the development of Aesthetics in Scandinavia? Why seems there to be a predilection for simplicity, logocentrism, a specific ethics, relatedness to the world and a tension between pronounced individualism and collectivism?

We investigate these questions in an international project.

The project aims to analyze the significance of Protestantism for the aesthetics of Nordic cultures. The Reformation was established and institutionalized in the Nordic countries statewide and enduringly within a few decades as the state church either until now or until very recently. The fundamental thesis is that it was not only one of the most important political factors in the political, social and ecclesiastical history of Scandinavia, but that it has also had a deep impact on cultural life in all its forms until today: on literature, visual arts, music, on both high and popular culture, on cultural practices and performances. The repercussions concern content (presence of Christian inter-texts) and form: We might detect a predilection for simplicity, logocentrism, purism, worldliness as obligation, tension between individualism and collectivism and in consequence a tendency to prefer aesthetic forms as subjective poetry, autobiography and engaged literature. Protestantism as a common denominator of Nordic cultures calls attention to the significant common ground of different characteristics and developments, on special features compared with other cultural areas and on the tension-filled dynamics of Nordic cultures on the background of other transnational developments.

Project led by: Thomas Mohnike, Université de Strasbourg, Lena Rohrbach, Universität Basel and Joachim Grage, Universität Freiburg

Funded by EUCOR-Seed-Money (April 2018 to March 2019)
Funded by iDex – 2019-2021 "Forgotten Roots of the Nordic Welfare State in Protestant Cultures". Postdoc: Søren Blak Hjortshøj
Funded by ANR-DFG 2022-2025 Protaestics: Aesthetics of Protestantism in Scandinavia from the 19th to the 21st Century

Events :

1st International Conference – Strasbourg, November 15-16, 2018. Programme en pdf : Workshop program 04

2nd International Conference: Forgotten Roots of the Nordic Welfare State in Protestant Cultures - Strasbourg, November 25 and 26, 2021. Program here.

3rd International Conference - Strasbourg, 21st to 23rd March 2024 : Answering the Call: Aesthetic Expressions of Vocation and Responsibility in Nordic Cultures since 1750


Publication :

Grage, Joachim, Lena Rohrbach, et Thomas Mohnike, éd. Aesthetics of Protestantism in Northern Europe - Exploring the Field. Turnhout: Brepols, 2022.