'Conquered by Words' or 'Taught by Senses:' The Body, Affects, and Imagination in Devotional Conflicts of the Spanish Atlantic Eighteenth Century

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0001-8206-1250
Johnson, Rachael Givens, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Owensby, Brian, AS-History, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines devotional conflicts in the eighteenth-century Spanish Atlantic through the lens of the sensorium, and the role of the diverging ideas about the role of the senses, affects, imagination, and social body in religious practice. I look specifically at contestations over image veneration and image pedagogy, public religious processions and festivals, and the activities and expenses of confraternities with an eye to what sensibilities and values about embodiment and sociality were informing these debates. I argue that reform Catholics endeavored to compartmentalize and marginalize the senses, affects, and imagination as forces that were inherently antithetical to spiritual pursuits. In so doing, reform Catholics influenced by Jansenist Cartesianism ruptured the Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding of human nature that had long treated the soul and its faculties as thoroughly and inescapably embodied. They attempted to compartmentalize the sensorium into mutually exclusive realms of body and spirit, the senses and reason, passions and piety, the public and the private. Baroque Catholics, in contrast, maintained a complex and integral understanding of the sensorium in which various faculties like the imagination, affects, and senses were tightly interrelated. Beneath the conflicts regarding the veneration of religious images, the performance of processions, and participation in confraternities was a fragmenting consensus on what it meant to be human.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Atlantic history, Early Modern European History, Baroque Catholicism, Spanish Enlightenment
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