Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Interpersonal Forgiveness and Reconciliation: A Cultural Philology, 1575–1890

This project proceeds from the observation that since the second half of the twentieth century, forgiveness and reconciliation have become pervasive themes in western culture, both on a political level and in personal relations.

Jan van Dijkhuizen

The aim of the project is to provide a cultural genealogy of the concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation from the late sixteenth to the late nineteenth century. In this way it will elucidate the various meanings of forgiveness before it became the dominant political and ethical concern which it is in modern society. 

The project will focus on interpersonal rather than divine forgiveness – although it will also show how conceptions of secular reconciliation drew on the language of divine forgiveness. I examine a range of different textual sources, from plays to novels and from life-writing to sermons. My aim, therefore, is not in the first instance to examine forgiveness as a concrete practice, but rather to explore the various ways in which forgiveness was conceptualized in these sources.

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