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Reading and Rebellion in Catholic Germany, 1770–1914
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Book description

Popular conceptions of Catholic censorship, symbolized above all by the Index of Forbidden Books, figure prominently in secular definitions of freedom. To be intellectually free is to enjoy access to knowledge unimpeded by any religious authority. But how would the history of freedom change if these conceptions were false? In this panoramic study of Catholic book culture in Germany from 1770–1914, Jeffrey T. Zalar exposes the myth of faith-based intellectual repression. Catholic readers disobeyed the book rules of their church in a vast apostasy that raised personal desire and conscience over communal responsibility and doctrine. This disobedience sparked a dramatic contest between lay readers and their priests over proper book behavior that played out in homes, schools, libraries, parish meeting halls, even church confessionals. The clergy lost this contest in a fundamental reordering of cultural power that helped usher in contemporary Catholicism.

Reviews

'With the scarcity of English language works on nineteenth-century German Catholic culture, Zalar’s study is truly welcomed. He has produced a brilliant [and] sophisticated examination of the changing reading habits of Catholics over two centuries.'

Kevin P. Spicer Source: Contemporary Church History Quarterly

'Zalar’s work illustrates how German Catholics engaged in a long process of resistance against clerical direction and authority over what lay Catholics read … This resistance demonstrates fundamental problems with traditional conceptions of clerical authority over the laity, it questions the religious milieu’s cohesion and it gives lay Catholics … much greater agency in their own history as Catholics and Germans.'

Eric Yonke Source: German History

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