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In recent years scholars in a range of disciplines have begun to re-evaluate the history of the Society of Jesus. Approaching the subject with new questions and methods, they have reconsidered the importance of the Society in many sectors, including those related to the sciences and the arts. They have also looked at the Jesuits as emblematic of certain traits of early modern Europeans, especially as those Europeans interacted with 'the Other' in Asia and the Americas.
Originating in an international conference held at Boston College in 1997, the thirty-five essays here reflect this new historiographical trend. Focusing on the Old Society- the Society before its suppression in 1773 by papal edict- they examine the worldwide Jesuit undertaking in such fields as music, art, architecture, devotional writing, mathematics, physics, astronomy, natural history, public performance, and education, and they give special attention to the Jesuits' interaction with non-European cultures, in North and South America, China, India, and the Philippines. A picture emerges not only of the individual Jesuit, who might be missionary, diplomat, architect, and playwright over the course of his life in the Society, but also of the immense and many-faceted Jesuit enterprise as forming a kind of 'cultural ecosystem'.
The Jesuits of the Old Society liked to think they had a way of proceeding special to themselves. The question, Was there a Jesuit style, a Jesuit corporate culture? is the thread that runs through this interdisciplinary collection of studies.
'Beyond the appeal that this book would have to a reader interested in specific items of Jesuit history, it would also have a wider readership among those interested in and/or conversant with the history of Europe from the late Renaissance through the Baroque period and on into the Age of Reason, in fields as varied as politics, literature, science, art, religion, and society. I thought that I knew a fair amount about Jesuitica; yet however much I may know, I have learned from this book much that I had not previously known at all.'
'Cultural historians have been, with few exceptions, slow to appreciate the many cultural roles played by the Society of Jesus from its foundation onwards. These spectacularly learned, lively and wide-ranging essays begin the job. They follow the Jesuits into realms as apparently diverse as prayer and philology and into places as distant from one another as Prague and Paraguay. They reveal some of the extraordinary fertile research currently under way on every aspect of the Jesuit enterprise, from its historical origins to its effects on European political and cultural expansion. And though they shed a particularly bright new light on the histories of science, art, and architecture, they leave few segments of the early modern encyclopedia of the arts untouched.'
'The geographical and disciplinary scope of The Jesuits is breathtaking. The quality of individual contributions is high, while the volume as a whole is more than the sum of its parts. It maintains a delicate balance between unity and diversity, showing that Jesuit contributions to the arts and sciences have a style of their own without being monolithically uniform. This is a book which redefines its field. It will be a landmark in Jesuit studies as well as an important contribution to the history of early modern culture.'
Buy The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773 by John W. O'Malley, Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Steve J. Harris & T. Frank Kennedy from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780802042873 & 0802042872
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