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Quaerendum est in litteris quod non est in actis. Issues of Religious Historiography in Scholarly Correspondences (2/3)

28-118 | Friday, 9 a.m. | 121
Panel Chair: Giovanni Casadio

Correspondences as a literary genre have proven to be, in the last years, an important key to reading religious historiography, both in order to obtain access to the Lebenssitz of scholars and to put concepts, debates, developments, structures and changes in their respective contexts. Hence, the religious-historical methodology cannot afford to neglect such a literary genre, given its character as 'etic' representation approaching the research object with an immediacy and originality that only personal communications can have; a freshness enriching scientific narration at all its levels with new and sometimes unexpected points of view. This panel (divided in three parts) intends to present some recent publications dealing with particularly significant exchanges of letters in the European area. The panel was launched with a half-open structure: besides the fixed books presentation (correspondences Pettazzoni-Rose, Cumont-Loisy, and Weinreich-Nilsson), it cordially invited researchers to contribute to it with further proposals of publication projects.

Annelies Lannoy

The Correspondence Loisy – Cumont

The correspondence between Alfred Loisy and Franz Cumont expands for more than 30 years and comprehends over 400 letters. Very rich in substance, it gives a unique overview of the genesis of the works of both scholars, which use their correspondence to provide a sort of analysis and structuring instrument for their leadings ideas regarding varied topics: Christianity (above all in its relation with mystery religions), Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Mandaeism, as well as methodological questions like the definition of the notion of “religion” and its socio-political effects. Moreover, the letters reflect on the role and the evolution of the history of religions and related disciplines, and can be seen as a mirror of coeval society, with numerous reflections on its political, religious, and cultural aspects.

Corinne Bonnet, Danny Praet


The respondents will address the issues raised in this paper.

Alessandro Stavru

The Correspondence Frobenius - W. F. Otto

This paper will deal with scientific and personal issues surfacing from the correspondence between the ethnologist Leo Frobenius (1873-1938) and the philologist Walter F. Otto (1874-1958). The extant letters – enriched by other documents available in the Nachlässe of the two scholars – testify the development of their relationship from 1924 to 1938. Frobenius and Otto became close friends a couple of years after their first “official” contact in 1924 (when Otto made possible the transfer of Frobenius’ Forschungsinstitut für Kulturmorphologie from Munich to Frankfurt, as well his appointment to honorary professor in 1932 and, in 1935, to director of the municipal Museum für Völkerkunde). Their personal friendship was at the core of the “Religionswissenschaftliche Frankfurter Schule”, in which eminent scholars took part in the decade 1924-1934. The scientific and personal background of this school and other significant collaborations is well documented in this correspondence, which strikes both for its immediacy and scholarly interest.

Chiara O. Tommasi

The Correspondence Pettazzoni – Widengren

The proposed paper sets the basis for the publication of the letters between Raffaele Pettazzoni and Geo Widengren. Although fewer in number if compared to other epistolaries of Pettazzoni, these letters represent, however, an interesting document to reconstruct Pettazzoni's scholarly legacy (which has been recently reassessed by many specific studies). Between 1948 and 1956, Widengren and Pettazzoni mainly discussed questions like the establishment of the International Association of the History of Religions and its official review, “Numen”, providing therefore interesting insight on its very beginning; at the same time, scholarly issues are occasionally debated, especially those concerning Iranian religion, according to Widengren’s unparalleled experience.