CROSSING BOUNDARY LINES: RELIGION, REVOLUTION, AND NATIONALISM ON THE FRENCH-GERMAN BORDER, 1789-1840
DAWN LYNN SHEDDEN
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2012
Typical historical constructions like chronology, geography, and faith are helpful in categorizing historical moments, but they are rarely broad enough to properly place any single individual or to make sense of the decisions that they make. Lives are lived at the intersection of multiple, competing identities that are regularly rewritten by time. My dissertation embraces this complexity by examining three families living on the border of France and Germany during the French Revolution and how they reconstruct religious, national, legal, and chronological boundary lines to suit their own needs. The French Revolution was a critical juncture because it opened up new opportunities and ways of thinking that many embraced. Yet even as it attempted to erase older dividing lines, it established new categories that were malleable and unreliable. Each case examined in this work highlights this duality of accessibility and restriction, of stability and uncertainty. As journalists, educators, lawyers, and religious leaders, the people I investigate actively pursued goals that would directly influence their local communities, their emerging nations, and the world beyond. The routes they selected were dramatic, like the case of Samuel Marx, Trier‘s rabbi, and his brothers Heinrich, the father of Karl Marx, and Cerf. They accepted Napoleon‘s call for social and occupational integration only to find professional doors to advancement barred by prejudice. Some cases, like Catholic Romantic leader Joseph von Görres and his brother-in-law Franz von Lassaulx, dean of Napoleon‘s new law school in Coblenz, reinvented themselves politically and religiously, often switching directions multiple times. For others, like Trier‘s first bishop Josef von Hommer, the radical nature of debates left his carefully constructed compromises open to criticism from all sides. Each chapter deals with an issue with which these gentlemen had to grapple: visits to Paris, life in a border region, shifting definitions of law, religious conversion, and interfaith marriage. Though their answers were quite different, they were all boundary crossers who recognized that they had the ability to rewrite history and did so with astonishing variety.