Reading Catechisms, Teaching Religion


Reading Catechisms, Teaching Religion makes two broad arguments. First, the sixteenth century witnessed a fundamental transformation in Christians’, Catholic and Evangelical, conceptualization of the nature of knowledge of Christianity and the media through which that knowledge was articulated and communicated. Christians had shared a sense that knowledge might come through visions, images, liturgy; catechisms taught that knowledge of ‘Christianity’ began with texts printed on a page. Second, codicil catechisms sought not simply to dissolve the material distinction between codex and person, but to teach catechumens to see specific words together as texts. The pages of catechisms were visual—they confound precisely that constructed modern bipolarity, word/image, or, conversely, that modern bipolarity obscures what sixteenth-century catechisms sought to do.

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Lee Palmer Wandel, Ph.D. (1985), is Professor of History, Religious Studies, and Visual Culture at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She is the author of a number of monographs, including The Eucharist in the Reformation: Incarnation and Liturgy (Cambridge, 2006).
Reading Catechisms, Teaching Religion is a rich, lucid book that should be of interest to scholars in several fields, not only Reformation history and religious studies.”
Lara Apps, University of Alberta. In: Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 47, No. 3 (Fall 2016), pp. 707-708.

“Wandel’s book successfully underlines the impetus in the catechisms of the Reformation era to render Christian knowledge graphically.”
Hilmar M. Pabel, Simon Fraser University, Canada. In: Renaissance and Reformation, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Summer 2016), pp. 219-221.

“This is an incredibly rich study of catechisms and the teaching of religion in the sixteenth century. […] Wandel’s splendid book opens many dimensions. It illuminates Christian identity and sixteenth-century shifts, as well as providing detailed comparative theological examinations of major catechisms. By explaining the catechisms in their wider contexts, Wandel illuminates their importance in themselves as well as their functions as texts that convey meaning for Christian believers.”
Donald K. McKim, Germantown, Tennessee. In: The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 68, No. 2 (April 2017), pp. 411-413.


List of Figures

1. The Codex in the Hand
2. Belief
3. Commandments
4. Prayer
5. Sacraments
6. Images


All interested in western Christian catechisms: seminaries, divinity schools, historians, theologians, pastors, public libraries, graduate and undergraduate students
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