Serpents and dragons in early modern German religious culture

Wood, Thomas Oliver Richard (2023). Serpents and dragons in early modern German religious culture. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis explores the significance of serpents and dragons as cultural phenomena in the changing religious landscape of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Germany. Serpents and dragons are formidable symbols, shifting their form over the centuries to meet the fears and expectations of the societies who imagine them. The German-speaking lands are home to a culture particularly rich with the history of these creatures, and this thesis examines what shape the serpentine monsters of the early modern period took in this place and asks why people imagined them in this way. In this piece, I engage with a plethora of materials in which serpents and dragons can be found, from folklore and encyclopaedias to Bibles and witch trials, that reveal these monsters to have been shaped by the religious anxieties of the Reformation. The era of the Reformation saw these symbols reinterpreted in terrifying new ways that shaped how people perceived both the world at large and their own identities. Viewed through the lenses of monster studies, semiotics, folklore, and Reformation studies, this thesis shows that serpents and dragons became horrifying tools of the Reformers – manifestations of all their fears and objects of their abject hatred.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DD Germany


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