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Jesuit Accounts of the Colonial Americas

Jesuit Accounts of the Colonial Americas: Intercultural Transfers Intellectual Disputes, and Textualities

Marc André Bernier
Clorinda Donato
Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 480
  • Book Info
    Jesuit Accounts of the Colonial Americas
    Book Description:

    In recent years scholars have turned their attention to the rich experience of the Jesuits in France and Spain's American colonies. That attention has brought a flow of new editions and translations of Jesuit accounts of the Americas; it is now time for a study that examines the full range of that work in a comparative perspective.Jesuit Accounts of the Colonial Americasoffers the first comprehensive examination of such writings and the role they played in solidifying images of the Americas.

    The collection also provides a much-needed re-examination of the work of the Jesuits in relation to Enlightenment ideals and the modern social sciences and humanities - two systems of thought that have in the past appeared radically opposed, but which are brought together here under the rubric of modern ethnographic knowledge. Linking Jesuit texts, the rhetorical tradition, and the newly emerging anthropology of the Enlightenment, this collection traverses the vast expanses of Old and New World France and Spain in fascinating new ways.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6348-0
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    The links between the Jesuit Relations and the newly emerging anthropology of the Enlightenment, which is the key issue examined in this volume, did not attract international research interest until fairly recently. For a long time, the thought and work of the Company of Jesus appeared radically opposed to Enlightenment ideals and the progress of modern social sciences and humanities. Subsequent, notably, to the work of Michel de Certeau (1974) and Michèle Duchet (1985), and with the publication of more recent collective works such as those edited by Manfred Tietz and Dietrich Briesemeister (2001), Karl Kohut and Maria Christina Torales...


    • chapter one A Peculiar Idea of Empire: Missions and Missionaries of the Society of Jesus in Early Modern History
      (pp. 21-49)

      In the Spanish conquest of South America, religion played an essential role. The Spanish kings considered the spiritual conquest of native populations indispensable and complementary to successful political and military subjugation. This spiritual conquest had different forms, according to its protagonists: bishops, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Jesuits. Among these groups, the experiences of the Jesuits were certainly the most original. Today we know quite a lot about the experiences of Jesuits in America and about their mission practices and organization, but we know less about their own perceptions and framings of these experiences (see Rieter 1995; Ganson 2003). Yet the Jesuits...

    • chapter two The Politics of Writing, Translating, and Publishing. New World Histories in Post-expulsion Italy: Filippo Salvatore Gilij’s 1784 Saggio di Storia Americana
      (pp. 50-80)

      Post-expulsion Italy became home to thousands of Jesuits who had been abruptly exiled from their South American missions in 1767. These Jesuits, mainly Spaniards (many of Catalan origin), Austrians, Germans, and Italians as well, faced and suffered similar losses and traumas of resettlement back in Europe. Corsica, under Genoese rule in 1767, had agreed to house the newly exiled Jesuits; yet in 1768, Corsica passed from Genoese to French rule and the Jesuits were shuttled off once again to new destinations throughout the Italian peninsula. Once in Italy, they found themselves immersed in a rapidly evolving cultural context in which...

    • chapter three Imagining the Kingdom of Quito: Reading History and National Identity in Juan de Velasco’s Historia del Reino de Quito
      (pp. 81-106)

      Jesuit historian Juan de Velasco’sHistoria del Reino de Quito en la América meridional(1789), which was not published in his lifetime, nonetheless has played a central role in creating and narrating his patriotic community. Velasco, who wrote in exile from Faenza, Italy, after the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain and its territories in 1767, was a Creole whose family had migrated from Spain two generations before his birth in 1727.¹ In his radically non-canonical interpretation of Quito’s history, Velasco fashions a patriotic past upon which his fellow elite Creoles could look with pride and honour. At the same...

    • chapter four For Love of Patria: Locating Self and Nation in Clavigero’s Rendition of the Conquest of México
      (pp. 107-126)

      In 1767, Francisco Xavier Clavigero and his Jesuit brethren were expelled from New Spain. The uprooting of Clavigero from the Spanish empire would convert him into a historian. By the following year Clavigero was established in Bologna, where he remained until his death in 1787, at the age of fifty-six.¹ During most of his exile in the Papal States, he dedicated himself to writing in Spanish and translating into Italian the work which would win him a place of honour within the Catholic Enlightenment, his magisterialHistoria antigua de México, the first volume of which appeared in Cesena in 1780...

    • chapter five Between Ethnology and Romantic Discourse: Martin Dobrizhoffer’s History of the Abipones in a (Post)modern Perspective
      (pp. 127-143)

      From the founding of the Society of Jesus in 1540 until the year 1767, when it was prohibited in France and in the Spanish Empire, the order has been traditionally cast as an anti-model of Enlightenment discourse. In the eyes of Diderot and Voltaire, as well as in the eyes of Herder in Germany and Robertson in Scotland, Jesuits embodied the policies of secret-mongering and inquisitorial practices that were the very opposite of rational thinking and the enlightened struggle against obscurantism and clerical oppression.

      However, when we examine non-canonical and peripheral voices, we encounter intellectual defenders of Jesuit activity as...

    • chapter six From Sacred Rhetoric to the Republic of Letters: Jesuit Sermons in Seventeenth-Century New Spain
      (pp. 144-168)

      Sacred Jesuit oratory in the seventeenth century constituted the very bedrock of Jesuit conversion practice; indeed, it was the frontline weapon in the struggle for souls. During the course of the seventeenth century, however, and into the eighteenth century, the demand for written transmission of oratorical content ultimately transformed the genre of the sermon. Though these changes to the canon were minute, imperceptible, and gradual, it is precisely within these changes that the emergence of modernity may be charted in Jesuit discourse, the roots of the very discourse that informs the Jesuit accounts, which are the focus of this volume....

    • chapter seven The Role of Culture and Art in France’s Colonial Strategy of the Seventeenth Century
      (pp. 169-186)

      TheJesuit Relationswere a series of reports written by Jesuit missionaries, published annually in Paris between 1632 and 1673, to chronicle their progress in converting the Native Americans to Christianity. However, as Alan Greer has noted, these reports include much more than simple accounts of evangelization. They offer detailed descriptions of the diverse Native American peoples of eastern Canada and the Great Lakes. But more importantly for my present concerns, they are also “crammed with news about the progress of colonization” in the New World. The Franco-Amerindian encounter in theJesuit Relations, wrote Greer, “must always be seen as...


    • chapter eight José Basílio da Gama’s Epic Poem O Uraguay (1769): An Intellectual Dispute about the Jesuit State of Paraguay
      (pp. 189-218)

      The polarizing transatlantic discourse about the so-called Jesuit state of Paraguay (1609–1768) in the eighteenth century was mainly based on knowledge gained from chronicles, accounts, travelogues, letters, and reports by real and alleged eyewitnesses from the New World, which had a lasting formative influence on the European conception of the missions and the Jesuits’ missionary activities in Paraguay. The Brazilian poet José Basílio da Gama (1741–1795) belonged to those authors from the New World who participated in this discussion, and who increasingly did so from a non-European perspective. At the beginning of 1760, Gama lived for almost seven...

    • chapter nine Changing Perspectives: The Other, the Self, the In-Between of the Jesuit Experience in the Eighteenth Century
      (pp. 219-242)

      In a recent book entitledVisión de los Otros y Visión de Sí Mismos. ¿Descubrimiento o Invención entre el Nuevo Mundo y el Viejo?, edited by Fermín del Pino and Carlos Lázaro, there are a few articles that analyse the narrations of Jesuit missionaries in the eighteenth century. Of particular interest in these articles is the discussion of how the Jesuit missionaries constructed their vision of themselves and how they constructed their vision of the Other. Héctor Sáinz Ollero speaks of the “culture shock” (Sáinz Ollero 1995, 96) those missionaries must have experienced, especially in the missions of the “selva,”...

    • chapter ten East from Eden: Domesticating Exile in Jesuit Accounts of Their 1767 Expulsion from Spanish America
      (pp. 243-262)

      In the historical imaginary of Spain and Spanish America, 1767 is a date that represents a turning point – like 1588, or 1898, or even 1492 – a moment when history swerved from its path to follow a new trajectory. The tangled web of political, economic, and ecclesiastical factors that led to the expulsion of the Jesuits – first from Portugal in 1759, then from France in 1764, and finally from Spain and its territories in 1767 – is far too complex to address adequately in these pages. Among those factors, however, one might include concern in Spain about Jesuit...

    • chapter eleven “Ils estoient si subjects à leur bouche”: la Relation de 1616 face à la topique antijésuite
      (pp. 263-275)

      C’est en ces termes, à la fois sibyllins et transparents, que Jean-Baptiste Legrain, dans laDecade contenant la vie et gestes de Henry le Grandqu’il fait imprimer à ses frais, entreprend de narrer au jeune Louis XIII le meurtre de son père par François Ravaillac. Or, l’année même où Legrain interpelle de manière si véhémente ces “pestes” et ces “diables,” sous la figure desquels le lecteur devine sans peine les pères jésuites, paraît leFactum du procès entre messire Jean de Biencourt, sieur de Poutrincourt, baron de S. Just, appelant, d’une part, et Pierre Biard, E[n]emond Massé et consorts,...

    • chapter twelve Les Relations des jésuites et la construction de l’observateur européen face au monde indigène
      (pp. 276-290)

      LesRelations de la Nouvelle-Franceconstituent un ensemble de textes extrêmement complexe et riche en informations sur les nouvelles colonies françaises de l’Amérique septentrionale. Elles sont considérées comme une source précieuse en ce qui concerne les us et coutumes des autochtones, la vie quotidienne de la mission ainsi que les régimes de discursivité spécifiques que pratiquent les différents groupes sociaux. Dans la mesure où elles jettent les bases ethnographiques d’une étude authentique d’un grand nombre de groupes indigènes établis dans le nord-est du continent américain, on peut les lire comme le premier grand panorama de la fondation de la colonie...

    • chapter thirteen Une rhétorique du silence: l’œuvre jésuite dans la Description de la Louisiane du récollet Louis Hennepin
      (pp. 291-304)

      À son retour en France à la fin de 1682, après un séjour de six ans en Nouvelle-France et un périple dont on n’a pas encore bien circonscrit les limites dans la région du Mississipi, Louis Hennepin, missionnaire récollet et aumônier des troupes de l’explorateur Cavelier de la Salle, se fait semble-t-il le porte-parole de son ordre et de Frontenac en rapportant à la Cour les griefs circulant dans la colonie contre les missionnaires jésuites, dont la rigueur morale est jugée excessive. Son premier récit de voyage, laDescription de la Louisiane, qui paraît en 1683, relance d’ailleurs la critique...


    • chapter fourteen L’héritage de José de Acosta
      (pp. 307-325)

      Au cours de leur apostolat en terre canadienne, les jésuites français ont été peu portés à définir leur doctrine évangélisatrice ou, si l’on veut user d’un néologisme, à produire un traité missiologique. Aussi est-ce un événement particulier qui a déterminé Pierre Biard, le rédacteur de la “relation” de 1611, à exposer les principes sur lesquels a reposé sa pratique évangélisatrice au cours de son séjour en Acadie entre 1611 et 1613. Ce sont même, sans doute, les accusations contenues dans leFactum du procez, qui a opposé Jean de Biencourt, sieur de Poutrincourt, aux jésuites, qui expliquent que la relation...

    • chapter fifteen La Nouvelle-France dans l’imaginaire jésuite: terra doloris ou Jérusalem céleste?
      (pp. 326-343)

      La vallée laurentienne est, au XVIIesiècle, entachée d’une fort mauvaise réputation. En 1609, Antoine Du Périer, le premier auteur à notre connaissance à avoir introduit ce vaste territoire dans une œuvre de fiction,Les amours de Pistion et de Fortunie, la perçoit comme une terre ingrate “où aucun ne vient et n’y vit que par force” ([1609] 1973, 61). Conscient de sa hardiesse, il multiplie au début du récit les formules d’excuses, de crainte de rebuter la dédicataire, Marguerite de Valois, avec le choix de ce cadre géographique: “[S]i ma plume n’est assés douce, vous excuserés le pays d’où...

    • chapter sixteen The Legacy of Joseph Gumilla’s Orinoco Enlightened
      (pp. 344-373)

      Recent books such asThe Insufficient EnlightenmentandTruncated Modernity in Latin Americaparticipate in the time-honoured description of a limited or failed Hispanic Enlightenment.¹ As Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra has discussed, historians and scholars have excluded Catholic Spain and Spanish America from narratives of the origins of modernity since the eighteenth century.² A longstanding presumption maintains that Northern Europe exported any traces of modernity to Iberia. This suggests that signs of modernity originated solely outside of Spanish America, which instead imported Enlightenment culture in the same way that Creole³ society imported fine French cloth or British soaps into the land of...

    • chapter seventeen Pierre Pelleprat’s Accounts of the Jesuit Missions in the Antilles and in Guyana (1655)
      (pp. 374-403)

      Born in Bordeaux in 1606, Pierre Pelleprat, Jesuit novice at seventeen years of age, taught for some years and then was ordained a priest in 1633. College regent, army chaplain, and preacher, he was an exorcist in Loudun in 1638 (until 1641), four years after Grandier was burned at the stake. Once more a preacher, minister, and college rector, in 1651 he obtained a mission on St. Christopher Island (also known as St. Kitts) to convert the Indians of the Caribbean. Disappointed by the poor results achieved by missionaries on the islands, he dreamed of grander projects on “the mainland...

    • chapter eighteen Dans le sillage du père Joseph-François Lafitau: les Avantures de Claude Le Beau
      (pp. 404-417)

      Depuis sa publication en 1738, leVoyage curieux et nouveau parmi les Sauvages de l’Amerique Septentrionalede Claude Le Beau a été l’objet de sévères critiques, notamment en raison des emprunts que l’auteur fait aux textes d’autres voyageurs. D’après le rédacteur duJournal de Trévoux, cette relation de voyage aurait pu être écrite sans que l’auteur ne mette les pieds en Amérique tant elle reprend plusieurs pages d’auteurs connus (voir Anonyme 1738, 1947). Gilbert Chinard estimait que Le Beau était un “effronté pillard” (Chinard 1934, 307) qui copiait et imitait ses modèles, alors que Gustave Lanctôt accusait Le Beau d’avoir...

  8. chapter nineteen Postface: De l’usage de la comparaison dans les écrits des Jésuites sur les Amériques
    (pp. 418-435)

    La comparaison comme acte de connaissance, après avoir connu une place épistémologique plutôt marginale dans le domaine des lettres et sciences humaines occidentales pendant ces 150 dernières années, vit actuellement une certaine renaissance, sous d’autres formes et à travers d’autres enjeux que ceux qui la caractérisaient pendant l’âge classique et l’époque des Lumières. Le romaniste Ulrich Schulz-Buschhaus, dans un article programmatique intitulé “Die Unvermeidlichkeit der Komparatistik” (“L’incontournabilité des études comparées”), paru en 1979, a précisément souligné, face au recentrement national des disciplines littéraires et historiques depuis la première moitié du XIXesiècle, la nécessité impérative de la démarche comparatiste pour...

  9. Annexe
    (pp. 436-436)
  10. Contributors
    (pp. 437-442)
  11. Index Nominum
    (pp. 443-464)