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In Memoriam
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Anne Jacobson Schutte

Posted By RSA, Monday, March 12, 2018


Anne Jacobson Schutte died from a cerebral hemorrhage on 26 February 2018. With her sudden death, the community of early modern historians lost one of its leading figures in Reformation history, gender studies, Inquisition studies, and Italian history.

Anne was raised in Palo Alto where her father worked for Stanford. After obtaining a BA from Pembroke College in Brown University, she returned to Stanford to earn a PhD in 1969 under the direction of Reformation historian Lewis W. Spitz. She remained fond of Stanford throughout her life and returned regularly to Palo Alto; indeed, just days before her death she commented on a recent article about the history of the university and its relationship to her own experience there as a child and as a student. A life-long lover of Italy, and of cats, Anne owned an apartment in Venice for many years, which she regularly rented to graduate students.  She frequently visited and collaborated with her Italian colleagues and friends, especially Silvana Seidel Menchi and Gabriella Zarri. Toward the end of her life she relocated to Chicago to ensure good medical care and to take advantage of the resources at the Newberry Library.

Anne’s life and career spanned and inspired generations of historians. She brought her rigorous training in German Reformation scholarship to Italian history, making a significant contribution to the field of Italian Reformation history with her first book Pier Paolo Vergerio: The Making of an Italian Reformer (1977). She also brought Italian historiography to English readers, introducing and announcing Carlo Ginzburg in an article in the Journal of Modern History (1976).  A recent notice in Rome’s La Repubblica commended the breadth of her knowledge and her work in countless libraries and archives, especially in the State Archives of Venice and the Inquisition archives in Rome. She loved the adventure of discovery, especially of small isolated archives and libraries, and her second book, Printed Italian Vernacular Religious Books, 1465–1550 (1983), speaks to her scholarly rigor and generosity, providing an invaluable scholarly resource for early modern religious history. 

Recalling the lessons that she had learned from Natalie Zemon Davis as a student at Pembroke, Anne also valued the perspective that stories from little-known repositories could add.  Careful study of individual experiences was at the heart of her books Aspiring Saints: Pretense of Holiness, Inquisition, and Gender in the Republic of Venice (2001) and By Force and Fear: Taking and Breaking Monastic Vows in Early Modern Europe (2011). Both these prize-winning books challenged easy assumptions and generalizations. Lawsuits to relax monastic vows, for example, were more often brought by men, contrary to what many assumed from reading Manzoni’s description of the “Nun of Monza.” She continued to study unusual individual experiences to the end of her life: her translation and commentary on Cecilia Ferrazzi’s Autobiography of an Aspiring Saint (1996) for the Other Voice series was a notable contribution in that vein. At her death she was working on a project about lay saints, and a book on biographies of early modern saints. Her particular methodological contributions were at the heart of a 2009 festschrift in her honor—Ritratti. La dimensione individuale nella storia. Anne was the author of four books and editor or translator of seven more, including Fulvio Tomizza’s historical and literary reflection on a seventeenth-century Venetian— Heavenly Supper: The Story of Maria Janis (1991). In her books, editions, translations and over seventy articles, she explored the social realities behind the religious behaviors and images of the early modern period.

Anne was an active participant in the profession. She was a member of numerous scholarly organizations, including stints as vice-president and president of the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference and as a long-time member of the Sixteenth Century Journal editorial board.  She also was one of the American editors of Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte / Archive for Reformation History (1998–2009). In recognition of her contributions as program secretary and member of the executive council, she was honored in 2012 with the Bodo Nischan Award of the Society for Reformation Research.

Anne brought the same dedication and work ethic to her teaching. She began her career at Lawrence University in Wisconsin as an ABD, rising eventually to the rank of Full Professor. In 1992 she moved to the University of Virginia as Professor of History and soon obtained a joint appointment in Religious Studies; she worked closely with Duane Osheim, Erik Midelfort, Carlos Eire, Karen Parshall, Alison Weber, and Mary McKinley.  She was a serious teacher and a thoughtful, loyal mentor to students. Her classes were renowned for their intellectual rigor, and her comments (both written and oral) were frank and invariably on point. The brutal candor of her published book reviews came as no surprise to her students, who recognized her unwavering commitment to accuracy, clarity, and intellectual honesty.  She encouraged her graduate students to plow new scholarly terrain, both methodologically and geographically, supervising dissertations that explored an array of social and religious questions in Treviso, Verona, Bergamo, and other provincial cities of the Veneto.  Anne introduced her doctoral students to leading scholars and the most recent scholarship, and her dedication to archival research inspired numerous dissertations and books.  Leading by example, her professional and personal engagement earned the respect and admiration of students and colleagues.  To the end of her life she remained in contact with undergraduates she had advised at Lawrence and regularly communicated with her graduate students at conferences and in the archive.

Anne was not retiring in retirement. She continued to write, edit, and translate. She maintained an active correspondence with friends around the world.  Although she had recently fallen and worried that her arm was not healing properly, she still was planning another visit to Italy and talking with friends about a visit to China.

Duane J. Osheim (University of Virginia)
Christopher Carlsmith (University of Massachusetts Lowell)
David D’Andrea (Oklahoma State University)

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