My research into how Renaissance authors financed the printing of their books, published in Montaigne's Career (Oxford, 1998), has led to a more general interest in how historical contexts shape the forms of literary experience. This has given rise to two current projects.
The first, To Make Believe: Literature, Religion, and the Reformation,examines how personal struggles with doubt in the Renaissance formed one's personal religious culture. In particular, I am interested in how the 'suspension of disbelief' inherent in individuals' practice of faith contributed to the ways in which they read and wrote literature, and to developing the peculiarly hypothetical frame of mind that literature requires.
The second, Alone unto Their Distance: French Reformers, Satire, and the Creation of Religious Foreignness, argues that the spiritual alienation cultivated in outlandish satiric literature allowed reformers to fashion themselves as pilgrims in this world and confessional foreigners in their home country. At the same time, these satires’ self-presentation and their modes of address implied a reformed public sphere constituted by those who “got the joke.” The new communion entailed in laughing at Catholic excess, modeled upon the particular reformed sense of “communication,” imagined a pan-European community held together by a non-local sense of belonging, well in advance of reformers’ actual emigration to the New World. More surprising still, the attitude of looking at one’s own culture through the eyes of an estranged traveler spread beyond reformed milieus to become a staple of French culture more generally. Through Montaigne, the ploy of acting the outsider in one’s homeland would become one of the signature devices of the Enlightenment’s challenge to the world of the Old Regime.
Recent and Selected Publications
“From Communion to Communication: The Creation of a Reformation Public,” Memory and Community, ed. Cathy Yandell and David LaGuardia (forthcoming from Ashgate).
“An Ethics for Anti-Humanism? Belief and Practice,” Anti-Humanism, ed. Jan Miernowski (forthcoming).
“Atheism as a Devotional Category,” Republics of Letters 1: 2 (2010).
"Anatomy of the Mass: Montaigne's 'Of cannibals,'" Publications of the Modern Language Association 117: 2 (2002), 207-21.
Montaigne's Career. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.
>>summary and reviews of Montaigne's Career
"Hoffmann's book is a tour de force, poised delicately between literary interpretation, social and economic history, and archival scholarship."
--Ullrich Langer, South Central Review
Recent graduate courses taught:
Theory and Criticism of the Secular
Theories of the Object
Recent undergraduate courses taught:
Assassins and Usurpers: Ambition in the Renaissance
The Devil Within: Demonic Possession & Self-Possession
France and the New World
The Algerian War in Film and Literature
A Creative-Writing Approach to Advanced Composition
What Objects Have to Tell Us