WACO, TX – Dr. William Weaver, a Great Texts professor in Baylor's Honors College and assistant director of its University Scholars program, recently was notified of his selection to receive a coveted Humboldt Fellowship.
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards fellowships to experienced researchers worldwide for 6- to 18-month research stays in Germany hosted by one or more sponsoring and collaborating German academic institutions. Humboldt fellows — known as "Humboldtians" — are chosen on the basis of their academic records and join an elite network of scholars called the "Humboldt Family."
During his 18 months in Europe, Weaver will devote himself to researching and producing a critical edition of the rhetorical writings of Philip Melanchthon, a 16th Century professor and theologian who labored alongside Martin Luther to bring about the Protestant Reformation. It is Melanchthon who is credited with writing the Augsburg Confession, regarded by scholars as the Reformation's seminal statement of faith.
Though an acknowledged force in Reformation thought, Melanchthon is little known outside academic circles. Weaver attributes that in part to the towering presence and bold personage of Luther, but more so to Melanchthon's unassuming nature.
"Luther's shadow is cast pretty long," Weaver admits. "But I think part of the reason Melanchthon is less well known is that he was modest. His students published a lot of his works — some in their own names — and he wasn't eager to exploit the printing press. In fact, he refused to publish his early lectures on scripture, but some of his students — in connivance with Luther — managed to get them published. That tells me something about his humility."
Weaver says that for all Melanchthon's contributions to theology, his greatest legacy sprang from his role as teacher of rhetoric. Melanchthon was the day's acknowledged master of rhetorical instruction, leading colleagues to give him the title, Praeceptor Germaniae — "The Teacher of Germany."
Weaver first became interested in Melanchthon while researching his dissertation on English Renaissance poetry.
"I was working on how Shakespeare's rhetorical training had an influence on him and his contemporaries," he recalls. "As I started studying deeper I learned about Melanchthon, and realized that a lot of what I was studying in the English Renaissance was indebted to Melanchthon. That can be demonstrated very well by the textbooks that were printed in England in the 16th Century — they almost all can be traced ultimately to one of the three major rhetorics that Melanchthon wrote."
Today, commemoration of the Reformation's 500th anniversary is fueling a boom in scholarship relating to Melanchthon's period. Many educational events, research projects and celebrations are being planned internationally by Refo500, a partnership of over 120 organizations and institutions that are working to inform people about and celebrate the Reformation.
Weaver hopes his Humboldt Fellowship will allow him to produce long-needed resources that will help scholars delve more deeply into Melanchthon's genius.
"While his works on rhetoric are well known to historians within certain fields, the last large scale edition of his collected works was published over 150 years ago — the last edition was around 1860. His first two major works on rhetoric have never appeared in a modern edition. They haven't been published since the 16th Century," Weaver said.
Weaver will begin his fellowship in the fall of 2015.
About William Weaver
William P. Weaver received his PhD from Columbia University in 2007. He currently is associate professor of literature in Baylor's Honors College and serves as assistant director of University Scholars. Dr. Weaver is the author of Untutored Lines: The Making of the English Epyllion (Edinburgh, 2012) and numerous articles on Renaissance rhetoric and poetry, which have appeared in Rhetorica, Studies in Philology and Renaissance and Reformation, among other scholarly publications. In addition to his Humboldt Fellowship, Dr. Weaver was awarded a Loeb Classical Library Fellowship in 2011.