Christine Johnson

​Associate Professor of History
PhD, Johns Hopkins University
MA, Johns Hopkins University
BA, Macalester College
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Professor Johnson studies Renaissance Germany, particularly transformations in knowledge, power, and identity during this era of intellectual discovery and rediscovery, political retrenchment, and religious challenge.

Johnson is interested in exploring how knowledge (broadly understood) is generated, circulated, and used to impel action within specific historical contexts and under changing configurations of power and authority.

Her first book, The German Discovery of the World, examines the German responses to the overseas expansion of Europe, arguing that German participants and observers successfully made sense of the newly discovered lands and peoples on the basis of their existing expertise and interests. In putting the work of these mapmakers, travelers, publishers, moralists, merchants, and naturalists into the original context of its creation, she reassesses the relationship between Renaissance knowledge and the European encounter with the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

Her current research on “The German Nation of the Holy Roman Empire, 1440-1556,” examines how the intersections between national sentiment and imperial claims changed under the influence of humanism, imperial political reform, and the splintering of religious identity in the Reformation. She hopes to expand our understanding of Central European political culture and identity formation and to offer a different perspective on the meanings of nation and empire in early modern Europe.

Selected Publications

Books

The German Discovery of the World: Renaissance Encounters with the Strange and Marvelous. (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2008)

Articles

"Creating a Usable Past: Vernacular Roman Histories in Renaissance Germany," The Sixteenth Century Journal, 40:4 (Winter 2009), 1069-90

"Buying Stories: Ancient Tales, Renaissance Travelers, and the Market for the Marvelous," Journal of Early Modern History, 11:6 (November 2007), 405-446

"Renaissance German Cosmographers and the Naming of America," Past and Present 191:1 (May 2006), 3-43.

Articles in Edited Volumes

“Commerce and Consumption” in The Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations, ed. Ulinka Rublack (in progress).

“Images of America in Sixteenth-Century Augsburg,” in Augsburg und Amerika: Aneignungen und globale Verflechtungen in einer Stadt (Augsburg: Wißner Verlag, 2014), 39-56.

“Between the Human and the Divine: Glarean’s De geographia and the Span of Renaissance Geography,” in Heinrich Glarean’s Books: The Intellectual World of a Sixteenth-Century Musical Humanist, ed. Iain Fenlon and Inga Mai Groote (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 139-158.

 

Awards

Kluge Fellowship, Library of Congress, Spring 2009

Faculty Research Grant, Washington University, Summer 2005

Fellow of the Dr. Gunther Findel Foundation, Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Summer 1999

Helen Watson Buckner Memorial Fellowship, John Carter Brown Library, Spring 1998

Dissertation Research Fellowship, DAAD, 1996-1997

Short-Term Fellowship, Newberry Library, Summer 1996

 

Recent Courses

Text and Tradition: Early Political Thought (Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities)

Text and Tradition: Puzzles and Revolutions (Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities)

Europe in the Age of Reformation

Renaissance Europe

Women in Early Modern Europe

Money and Morals in the Age of Merchant Capital

The Black Death and the Plague in Europe (Historical Methods Seminar)

Advanced Seminar: Medicine on the Frontiers

Graduate Seminar: Politics, Society, and History in the Holy Roman Empire, 1350-1700

Graduate Seminar: Gender in Early Modern Europe

Graduate Seminar: The Refomation

The German Discovery of the World

The German Discovery of the World

Current historiography suggests that European nations regarded the New World as an inassimilable "other" that posed fundamental challenges to the accepted ideas of Renaissance culture. The German Discovery of the World presents a new interpretation that emphasizes the ways in which the new lands and peoples in Africa, Asia, and the Americas were imagined as comprehensible and familiar. In chapters dedicated to travel narratives, cosmography, commerce, and medical botany, Johnson examines how existing ideas and methods were deployed to make German commentators experts in the overseas world, and how this incorporation established the discoveries as new and important intellectual, commercial, and scientific developments.

Written in an engaging and accessible style, this book brings to light the dynamic world of the German Renaissance, in which humanists, cartographers, reformers, politicians, botanists, and merchants appropriated the Portuguese and Spanish expeditions to the East and West Indies for their own purposes and, in so doing, reshaped their world.