Internal Theater and Emotional Scripts in French Jesuit Meditative Literature
The Jesuits were experts in the evocation of emotion and the manipulation of the senses in the early modern period. Religious theater was one medium through which the Jesuits sought to appeal to the emotions of early modern Catholics in order to augment their piety. Yet in addition to such “external” techniques, Jesuit writers also directed “inward” piety in meditative texts designed to encourage mental participation in imaginary scenes and dialogues. This essay proposes that these dramatic strategies might be explored using the idea of the “internal theater” and focuses, in particular, on the way Jesuit authors strove to “stage-manage” their readers’ affective experiences through the use of “emotional scripts” surrounding the Virgin Mary. These themes will be explored in two texts produced within this Jesuit tradition, in France and New France, respectively: Louis Richeome’s Le Pélerin de Lorète, published in 1603 in Paris, and Pierre Chastellain’s Affectus Amantis Christum seu Exercitium amoris erga Dominum Jesum, composed in Sainte-Marie, New France in c.1641.
This essay grew out of conversations with Dr. Ananya Chakravarti about Jesuit drama and “internal theater” in the European and non-European world. Earlier research for this essay was presented as part of a collaborative paper with Dr. Chakravarti in Trento in October 2013. Further research and revisions were carried out during a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Chester. I am grateful to the editors of the volume for constructive feedback on earlier drafts of this essay. I am also indebted to Professor Elizabeth Tingle for helping to refine the arguments presented here; and to Dr. Thomas Pickles for proofreading the final draft and editing my Latin translations.