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Dialogue and Disputation in the Zurich Reformation: Utz Eckstein’s «Concilium» and «Rychsztag»

Edition, Translation and Study

Nigel Harris and Joel, Rev. Love

This volume contains the first modern critical editions of Concilium (1525) and Rychsztag (1526), two vernacular verse dialogues by the Zurich-based Zwinglian author Utz Eckstein, together with translations of both into English prose. These works are of interest not just for their literary qualities (which differ markedly from those conventionally associated with ‘Reformation dialogues’), but also because of what they reveal about Zwingli’s theological and socio-political priorities in the mid-1520s. Along with many other aspects of the contemporary Swiss context, these features are examined in an introduction and in extensive elucidatory notes. An underlying thread of the authors’ interpretation is that, for all their evident desire to express and establish Evangelical perspectives, the Concilium and Rychsztag make imaginative and constructive use of specifically Swiss traditions of dialogue, which were expressed, for example, both in the consultative decision-making processes of rural communities and in the increasingly influential procedures of the formalized urban disputation.


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The sixteenth century was a time of rapid socio-political change, far- reaching religious conflict, and an explosion of new media. The inter- mingling of these and other factors resulted in a substantial increase in the quantity of literature produced in the major European vernaculars, in the number of people who came into contact with it, and hence in the importance of texts for the shaping and nurturing of public opinion. This is why the vernacular literature of the time is of interest not just to students of literature, but also to those concerned with social, religious, or intellectual history. Much of this literature, however, remains in practice impenetrable, not least to readers of English, because of a lack of reliable editions and translations, and indeed of approachable analytical studies. A case in point is provided by the works of the Swiss Reformation author Utz Eckstein (c. 1490– 1558), whose dialogues,1 all datable to the mid-1520s, have much to tell us about the priorities and perspectives specifically of the Zurich (Zwinglian) Reformation, as well as representing a unique moment in the development of the dialogue as a literary and polemical form – but which have, nevertheless, hitherto been largely neglected by scholars. With the exception of Johann Scheible’s uncritical and unreliable reprints in his self-published compendium Das Kloster,2 Eckstein’s works have not been edited since the sixteenth century. Moreover the only really substantial study of him remains the book-length article of 1 We use this term throughout for convenience only....

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