In: Changing Hearts
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Jan Bloemendal

The volume Changing Hearts, dedicated to emotions and the Jesuits, comes at a timely moment: in the humanities, an “affective turn” is underway, bringing fresh attention to passions, affects, and emotions, alongside—and sometimes in reaction to—cognitive approaches to early modern culture and to the “linguistic turn” in intellectual history.1 Emotions are being considered and reconsidered, and gradually awareness has grown that shifting categorizations of the passions, rather than being restricted to the domain of faculty psychology alone, have wide implications for notions of subjectivity, theories of human agency, and conceptions of happiness.2 The last five years have been marked by a “cognitive return;” this is a good opportunity, therefore, to evaluate the “affective turn.”3

It is possible to speak of “emotions” in the early modern period as long as we remain aware of the anachronistic and ahistorical use of the word. The term “emotions” was given its present meaning in nineteenth-century psychology and philosophy. In the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, one tended to speak of affects (English), Affekten (German), affetti (Italian), affectus (Latin), or affecten (Dutch), or of passions (intense affects; from the Latin patior [suffer]), or Leidenschaften (German). These “passions” were often associated with (neo-)Stoic philosophy, which demanded their control.4 Alongside this psychological and moral take on the passions, the “theory of affects,” a translation of the German Affektenlehre, was an aesthetic theory originally relating to music, but applicable to all performing arts. The “theory of affects” contended that because passions and affects are made visible by outward signs, they could be represented in sound or image. The most elaborate work describing this phenomenon in music is Johann Mattheson’s (1681–1764) Der vollkommene Capellmeister (The perfect conductor [1739]).5 René Descartes’s (1596–1650) own theory of the passions was used as the foundation for a French “classical” take on “the theory of affects.” Descartes had described the affects in Les passions de l’âme (The passions of the soul [1649]) and categorized them in six types: joie (joy), haine (hate), amour (love), tristesse (sadness), désir (desire), and admiration (admiration).6 On the basis of Descartes’s treatise, Charles Le Brun (1619–90) designed a detailed system for the effective representation of affects in painting in his Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions (Method to learn to control the passions [1668]).7

This Affektenlehre partly elaborated on the ancient medical theory of temperaments or humores, according to which man’s character and affects are defined by the combination and ratio of the four humors. As such, the theory has been applied to the plastic arts, especially drawing and painting, where it was called “emotionality” (in Dutch: beweeglijkheid) in the early modern period.8 The “theory of affects” was also closely connected to rhetoric and its goals: docere, movere, and especially delectare; arousing affects in the audience, sometimes by showing these affects, was intended to make people receptive to the speaker’s message. It is because of this connection of affects and emotions that Seneca’s dramas had such an appeal to many early modern playwrights:9 in his tragedies, the outward signs of affects are clearly indicated and often elaborated in the tradition of the Stoic theory of passions.

Performance and affects are inextricably connected, something that Aristotle already noticed in his Poetics.10 Acting rouses affects, and affects are only visible in action; they, so to speak, demand action, for this action permits the outward revelation of affects. This holds true for a theatrical production of a play, but also for the performance of a speech. However, the way affects are employed in drama varies; their presence can be spare or exuberantly overwhelming. Their purpose may vary as well, from cathartic purification through pity and fear, to exemplary emulation intended at moral improvement, to exhortation to revolt against authorities, to mention only a few.

The expression of affects is especially useful in dramas that aim to influence their audiences in matters of religion, since religion, too, is intrinsically emotional. The main events of Christian history—the creation, the fall, the redemption, and the second coming—rouse, or should rouse, emotions in Christians.11 With regard to redemption, Renaissance humanists stressed man’s own moral preparations for accepting the grace of salvation and rejoicing over it.12Mutatis mutandis, Catholic theology laid emphasis on man’s personal role in obtaining salvation through works of mercy. Protestant authors, including those who wrote religious plays, stressed God’s mercy and grace as means of salvation.13 On both sides of the religious divide, Christianity—and its early modern dramatic expressions—was inevitably concerned with the “emotions” of joy, love of one’s neighbor, and remorse for one’s sins, although the role of these emotions in God’s acts of salvation differed between Protestant and Catholic authors: Protestants stressed remorse and grace; Catholics charity and reward.

It must be emphasized, however, that in drama the lines between Protestant and Catholic were thin, just as the editors of the present volume concede that there is, essentially, no such thing as “Jesuit emotions.”14 The Jesuits, for instance, were fond of the Acolastus (1529), written by the sixteenth-century Protestant author Wilhelm Gnapheus (1493–1568), a play stressing God’s grace in the redemption of the younger brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, and went as far as to have it performed often. The same holds for Euripus (Wavering man [1549]) by the Minorite Livinus Brechtus (1515–60), a play that was performed on almost every Jesuit stage.15 At the other end of the confessional spectrum, the Protestant Strasbourg Academy staged dramas by Catholic writers, such as Grégoire de Hologne’s (Gregorius Holonius [c.1531–94]) Laurentias (Tragedy on Laurentius [1556]) and Cornelius Laurimanus’s (1520–73) Esthera (Esther [1562]). The latter play was overtly written to defend the position of the Roman Catholic Church in the Low Countries. The Basel printers, Nicolaus Brylinger (1515–65) and Johannes Oporinus (1507–68), published commercial anthologies of religious dramas in 1541 and 1547 respectively, which combined Protestant and Catholic plays. Thus, we should proceed with care when attempting to identify a “Jesuit” way of “performing” emotions.

And yet there can be no doubt that the Society of Jesus did employ affects and emotions with unusual effectiveness. With all verbal and theatrical means, they tried to influence and indoctrinate their audiences and actors and convert them to Christian life. The Jesuits themselves were open about these goals. The report of the 1609 performance in Munich of Jacob Bidermann’s (c.1578–1639) Cenodoxus (first performed in Augsburg, 1602) tells us that fourteen members of the audience immediately went into retreat to perform Ignatius of Loyola’s (c.1491–1556) Exercitia spiritualia (Spiritual exercises, written in the 1520s and 1530s but printed only in 1548), whereas the actor who played the part of the conceited Cenodoxus, who at the end of his life is overwhelmed with grief over his sins, entered the order to end his life nearly a saint.16 This may seem to be merely written for propagandistic purposes, but we need not question the fact that people could be deeply affected by what they saw. In any case, the Jesuits were undoubtedly successful in winning souls, especially as missionaries. They even made persons from their audiences willing to die for Christian faith in these far regions. They knew well that in order to reach such goals, affects are the heart of faith, religion, and spirituality. It is in line with this project of rousing emotions to win souls that in the index to volume 1 of the Selectae P.P. Soc. Iesu tragoediae (Selected tragedies of the fathers of the Jesuit order [1634]), emotions such as affectus paterni (fatherly love), affectus deliberantis (affect of someone deliberating), and affectus irae (affect of wrath) are listed, together with character traits such as avaritia (avarice) and auri vis (thirst for gold).17

In one sense, the emotional potency of Jesuit drama may have been reduced by the audience’s lack of Latinity. Many of the spectators were the acting and singing boys’ parents, or young schoolboys, some of whom must have had insufficient knowledge of Latin. This problem was met by distributing program booklets with a summary of the play. On the other hand, the use of an incomprehensible—and therefore almost “sacred”—language would have added to the impressiveness of the performance. The effect may also have been magnified because parents and other members of the audience were watching boys they knew very or pretty well, and thus were more receptive to what was being performed and the affectus being conveyed.

This said, the use of affects still allowed for much variety, as the very diverse contributions in this volume show. Many roads led to Rome, and through Rome to Christ, for the Jesuits. While the main language of the Jesuits was Latin, this did not hold them back from reading and emulating works in the vernacular, nor from employing all theatrical means in the name of their faith. They even assimilated the culture of the people they wanted to convert, sometimes to such an extent that the pope and curia worried about their orthodoxy. But the Jesuits’ defense was that they would do everything to change hearts for the sake of Christ and ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

This volume of essays contributes to our understanding of the ways in which the Jesuits employed affectus, affects, passions, or emotions to reach this goal. Affects and emotions were aroused and portrayed in theatrical events of all kinds: joyous entries and dramatic performances, whose scripts were in Latin, and in the vernaculars, meditational dramas. One of the merits of this volume is to show the employment of affects by Jesuits in this broad range.


See, for instance, Adriana Luna-Fabritius and Freya Sierhuis, eds., “The Passions in European Political Thought and Literature, 1600–1900,” special issue of European Review of History: Revue européenne d’histoire 17 (2010). For the “affective turn,” see their “Introduction,” 1–4, esp. 1; Brian Cummings and Freya Sierhuis, eds., Passions and Subjectivity in Early Modern Culture (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013); for the “linguistic turn,” see Michael Champion et al., “But Were They Talking about Emotions? Affectus, Affectio, and the History of Emotions,” Rivista storica italiana 128 (2016): 521–43.


Luna-Fabritius and Sierhuis, “Introduction,” 1.


For the cognitive turn, see, for instance, Terence Cave, Thinking with Literature: Towards a Cognitive Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016); Terence Cave, Karin Kukkonen, and Olivia Smith, eds., “Reading Literature Cognitively,” special issue of Paragraph 37 (2014); and the project of Prof. Peter Meineck on cognitive theory and Greek drama.


On the affects and their theory, see Brewster Rogerson, “The Art of Painting the Passions,” Journal of the History of Ideas 14 (1953): 68–94; Rainer Bayreuther, “Theorie der musikalischen Affektivität in der Frühen Neuzeit,” in Musiktheoretisches Denken und kultureller Kontext, ed. Dörte Schmidt (Schliengen: Edition Argus, 2005), 69–92; Andrew Clark, “Making Music Speak,” in Speaking of Music: Addressing the Sonorous, ed. Keith M. Chapin and Andrew Clark (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), 70–85; Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek, Affektpoetik: Eine Kulturgeschichte literarischer Emotionen (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2005). I thank Arie Eikelboom for pointing me to this theory.


In modern editions, see Johann Mattheson, Der vollkommene Capellmeister, 1739, ed. Margarete Reimann (facs. repr. ed. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1954); Mattheson, Der vollkommene Capellmeister: A Revised Translation with Critical Commentary, ed. Ernest Charles Harriss (Ann Arbor: umi Research Press, 1981).


René Descartes, Les passions de l’âme (Paris: Henry Le Gras, 1649); Descartes, Passions of the Soul, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes: Volume 1, ed. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).


On Le Brun, see Michel Gareau, Charles LeBrun: First Painter to King Louis XIV (New York: Abrams, 1992).


See Boudewijn Bakker, Landscape and Religion from Van Eyck to Rembrandt, trans. Diane Webb (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012). Bakker relates (at 269n28) this beweeglijkheid to “physical and emotional movement.” On the humors, see Manfred Horstmanshoff, Helen King, and Claus Zittel, eds., Blood, Sweat, and Tears: The Changing Concepts of Physiology from Antiquity into Early Modern Europe (Leiden: Brill, 2012).


The modern sense of emotion tends to emphasize the fact that affectivity relates to interiority, whereas the early modern, medical-cum-rhetorical take on “affects” tended most of the time to insist on their displays as outward signs of that interiority.


On sentiments and the theory of drama, see also Blair Hoxby, What Was Tragedy? Theory and the Early Modern Canon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 79–84.


The possibility of a Christian theater has been contested by modern scholars who believe that Christianity and tragedy are hardly compatible, because the Christian faith posits a fundamentally optimistic worldview that runs counter to tragedy’s pessimistic worldview. See Hoxby, What Was Tragedy?, Chapter 5, “Counter-Reformation Tragedy: The Laurell and the Cypress,” 200–57.


James A. Parente Jr., Religious Drama and the Humanist Tradition: Christian Theater in Germany and in the Netherlands 1500–1680 (Leiden: Brill, 1987), 74–86. In his Enchiridion militis christiani (1501, re-issued 1518), Erasmus (1466–1536) emphasized the role of good education: it helped one prepare for sinful attacks, either from within one’s own mind or from the outside world, thus contributing to one’s own and others’ deliverance; in his De libero arbitrio (1524), he tried to elucidate the intricate relationship between free choice and grace.


That is, the more Lutheran Protestants did, whereas Calvinists tended to stress the juridical justification of man: mankind has to be granted justice.


On Latin drama in Europe, see Jan Bloemendal and Howard B. Norland, eds., Neo-Latin Drama and Theatre in Early Modern Europe (Leiden: Brill, 2013); on passions in early modern drama and dramatic criticism, see Blair Hoxby, “Passions,” in Early Modern Theatricality, ed. Henry S. Turner (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 556–86.


See Fidel Rädle, “Jesuit Theatre in Germany, Austria and Switzerland” and Jan Bloemendal, “Neo-Latin Drama in the Low Countries,” in Bloemendal and Norland, Neo-Latin Drama and Theatre, 185–292, here 203–4, and 293–364, here 306–7.


See Jan Bloemendal, “Receptions and Impact: Early Modern Latin Drama, Its Effect on the Audience and Its Role in Forming Public Opinion,” in Neo-Latin Drama: Forms, Functions, Receptions, ed. Jan Bloemendal and Philip Ford (Hildesheim: Olms, 2008), 7–22, with the text and an English translation of the relevant passage, 21–22.


Selectae P.P. Soc. Iesu tragoediae (Antwerp: Johannes Cnobbarus, 1634), index.

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Changing Hearts

Performing Jesuit Emotions between Europe, Asia, and the Americas

Series:  Jesuit Studies, Volume: 15


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