Date of Award

Summer 2008

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Annette Finley-Croswhite

Committee Member

Douglas Greene

Committee Member

Kathy Pearson

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47 C755 2008


Martin Luther's remarkable life, his impressive body of written work, his dynamic and charismatic personality, and his impact on the world have long been a source of interest in the world of academia and of popular culture. This thesis examines the affect of the scholarly historical research of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries regarding Luther and its affect on perception of the reformer in popular culture as presented by the media.

The opening section of the thesis presents an examination and evaluation of Lutheran scholarship and how historical trends have affected the reformer's image in the academic world. Documents from the American version of Luther 's Works are used to compare the reformer's own words with the opinions of scholars. The following section addresses the psychological perceptions of Luther using scholarship from the second half of the twentieth century to present day as well as many of the reformer's letters, sermons, and published tracts. Lastly the perceptions cultivated by the media industry are explored using three historical dramas and one documentary based on Luther's life and many websites that feature the reformer in some fashion.

The evidence produces the conclusion that though historical trends have produced an increasingly complex Luther, the outdated and weak great man theory continues to dominate the media's portrayal of him because it resonates with the general public and, in turn, generates interest and income.


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