August 2017: New Historiographical Essay on Jesuit Devotional Literature

The Jesuit Historiography Online, hosted by Brill Reference, now includes an essay on Jesuit Devotional Literature. The essay is authored by Charles R. Keenan, formerly an Institute Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies.


In defining the sources of devotional literature–among the “incredible amount of printed works” by Jesuits on the topic–Keenan’s essay focuses on “manuals for meditation, handbooks for prayer, printed collections of sermons, lives of the saints, and other spiritual and ascetical works.” It considers texts published by Jesuits as well as those by other authors “inspired, either directly or indirectly, by Jesuit spirituality.”


The essay looks at historians’ treatment of devotional literature in bibliographies and surveys, works from the early years of the Society of Jesus, significant publishers, translators, readers, and censors, the texts used in missionary enterprises, and the works appearing during and after the papal suppression of the Jesuits. It also suggests areas for further research.  “The popularity of Jesuit devotional literature over the centuries is undeniable,” Keenan concludes. “This is evidenced not only by the total number of titles written, but also by the multiple printings and translations of those same titles—often centuries after they were first published—as well as their many readers, both inside and outside the Society of Jesus.”


An Open Access resource due to support by the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies, Jesuit Historiography Online presents essays by experts in their field summarizing key texts, surveying recent scholarship, and suggesting future areas of inquiry.


Keenan is the assistant director for the Core Curriculum at Boston College. He also recently translated Gasper Loarte’s The Exercise of the Christian Life, available in print and electronic format through Jesuit Sources.

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