Rhetorical Theology and the History of Emotions

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The purpose of this chapter is to chart some useful scholarly approaches to the history of medieval and early modern affective theologies. It aims to show how a focus on emotions is especially conducive to revealing meaningful continuities that are often obscured by rigid modes of periodization, on the one hand, and by the anti-scholastic rhetoric of early modern biblical humanists, on the other. The confluence and divergence of multiple intellectual traditions gave rise to deep complexities in the history of theological approaches across the medieval and early modern period. But lines of influence and reception were often blurred by the explicit appropriation of classical and patristic texts and ideas in the Renaissance, and humanists tended to argue that their own approach to theology (rhetorical rather than dialectical, to put it simply) was novel in its affectivity but also superior to medieval approaches insofar as it attended to the whole person – intellectus and affectus. A closer look reveals a more complicated picture, of course, and I would like to suggest the possibility that theologia rhetorica, a heuristic device originally conceived for delineating a theological tendency specific to the Italian Renaissance, can serve as a useful tool when employed alongside approaches from the new history of emotions to think about the relationship between rhetoric, emotions and theology in medieval and early modern Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge History of Emotions in Europe, 1100-1700
EditorsAndrew Lynch, Susan Broomhall
Place of PublicationOxon
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781315190778
ISBN (Print)9781138727625
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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