In March, Penguin Random House Press will release Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper (Oxford University). The publisher’s description follows:
This definitive biography reveals the complicated inner life of the founding father of the Protestant Reformation, whose intellectual assault on Catholicism ushered in a century of upheaval that transformed Christianity and changed the course of world history.
On October 31, 1517, so the story goes, a shy monk named Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper to the door of the Castle Church in the university town of Wittenberg. The ideas contained in these Ninety-five Theses, which boldly challenged the Catholic Church, spread like wildfire. Within two months, they were known all over Germany. So powerful were Martin Luther’s broadsides against papal authority that they polarized a continent and tore apart the very foundation of Western Christendom. Luther’s ideas inspired upheavals whose consequences we live with today.
But who was the man behind the Ninety-five Theses? Lyndal Roper’s magisterial new biography goes beyond Luther’s theology to investigate the inner life of the religious reformer who has been called “the last medieval man and the first modern one.” Here is a full-blooded portrait of a revolutionary thinker who was, at his core, deeply flawed and full of contradictions. Luther was a brilliant writer whose biblical translations had a lasting impact on the German language. Yet he was also a strident fundamentalist whose scathing rhetorical attacks threatened to alienate those he might persuade. He had a colorful, even impish personality, and when he left the monastery to get married (“to spite the Devil,” he explained), he wooed and wed an ex-nun. But he had an ugly side too. When German peasants rose up against the nobility, Luther urged the aristocracy to slaughter them. He was a ferocious anti-Semite and a virulent misogynist, even as he argued for liberated human sexuality within marriage.
A distinguished historian of early modern Europe, Lyndal Roper looks deep inside the heart of this singularly complex figure. The force of Luther’s personality, she argues, had enormous historical effects—both good and ill. By bringing us closer than ever to the man himself, she opens up a new vision of the Reformation and the world it created and draws a fully three-dimensional portrait of its founder.
In February, Oxford University Press will release Politicizing Islam: The Islamic Revival in France and India by Z. Fareen Parvez (University of Massachusetts). The publisher’s description follows:
Home to the largest Muslim minorities in Western Europe and Asia, France and India are both grappling with crises of secularism. In Politicizing Islam, Fareen Parvez offers an in-depth look at how Muslims have responded to these crises, focusing on Islamic revival movements in the French city of Lyon and the Indian city of Hyderabad. Presenting a novel comparative view of middle-class and poor Muslims in both cities, Parvez illuminates how Muslims from every social class are denigrated but struggle in different ways to improve their lives and make claims on the state. In Hyderabad’s slums, Muslims have created vibrant political communities, while in Lyon’s banlieues they have retreated into the private sphere. Politicizing Islam elegantly explains how these divergent reactions originated in India’s flexible secularism and France’s militant secularism and in specific patterns of Muslim class relations in both cities. This fine-grained ethnography pushes beyond stereotypes and has consequences for burning public debates over Islam, feminism, and secular democracy.