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The Masculine Discourse of Tears: Religious Weeping as Emotional Practice in Japan’s Christian Century (1540-1640)

For Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, weeping was a religious practice through which one could come to an understanding of the will of God. It was also through such emotional practice that the Jesuits sought to arouse the senses of their congregations and to convert the masses in a torrent of tears. Among their foreign missions, the presence of Jesuits in Japan was lauded at the time as one of the Society’s most successful ventures in the early modern period. It is here that we find accounts of Japanese Christians  publicly shedding tears of contrition and devotion. This project takes these accounts as its starting point, and seeks to interrogate the history of the practice. What kind of ‘feeling rules’ can we identify in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Japan? How did these define Japanese standards of masculinity? Can we find examples of ritualized weeping in Japanese religions? How might have Jesuit missionaries instructed the Japanese in new ways of emotional expression?  This project approaches these questions by embarking on a comparative history of the emotional styles underlying the Society of Jesus’s approach to conversion, and that of the Japanese who were converted. An emotional turn in scholarship offers us a new pathway for uncovering the grassroots experience of conversion in early modern Japan. Thus in walking this path, this project builds on current research interest in sensuousness and devotion within the Society of Jesus, and explores a new chapter in Japan’s emotional history by analyzing its intersection with Christianity.