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The Literary Culture of the ReformationGrammar and Grace$
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Brian Cummings

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780198187356

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187356.001.0001

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New Grammar and New Theology

New Grammar and New Theology

(p.102) 3 New Grammar and New Theology
The Literary Culture of the Reformation

Brian Cummings

Oxford University Press

This chapter offers an account of the theoretical context surrounding the problems. It also looks closely at Luther's alter ego, Erasmus. Before anyone had even heard of Luther, Erasmus had announced a new religion based on literature. Erasmus's name became coupled inexorably with Luther's. The chapter explains the context for the Reformation of the conflict over literary method, for the historical coincidence of Erasmus's reform of literary studies with Luther's reform of theology raises important and puzzling questions for each. It begins by presenting Erasmus's Novum Instrumentum and the new grammar, and then addresses whether Luther is a scholastic or humanist. The modi significandi were the focus of the humanist critique of scholastic grammar, as shown by Erasmus's description of its ‘cruel torments’ working to discourage good speaking habits. Erasmus and Luther attempt to apply an inchoate and unresolved linguistic theory to questions requiring (in a new theological context) a new certainty of distinction.

Keywords:   Erasmus, Luther, new grammar, theology, modi significandi, Novum Instrumentum, linguistic theory

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