Work and Health — Manning
By Patricia W. Manning | Published on November 10, 2021
Good health was a prerequisite for joining the Society; potential members were questioned about their medical conditions prior to admission. Once Jesuits had taken final vows, accommodations were made for members of advanced age or whose health made it difficult for them to perform their assigned tasks, but certain popular items, like gloves to protect one’s skin while travelling, were perceived to be emasculating and were not allowed. If men who had not yet taken final vows suffered from health challenges, they generally were allowed to depart from the Society in relatively short order; however, this was not the case for melancholic Jesuits. Influenced by Huarte de San Juan’s theories that associated melancholy with high intellectual potential in men, the order often encouraged melancholy Jesuits in their vocations rather than quickly allowing them to leave. Since the Society of Jesus did not establish a sister community of nuns (and I explore some of the motives behind this choice in my chapter), we cannot make direct comparisons between attitudes toward melancholic men and women of the cloth in the same religious order. Nonetheless, the Society’s interest in helping melancholic Jesuits to cultivate their vocations stands in marked contrast to the treatment of similarly afflicted religious women.
In terms of elements that I did not include in my chapter, I have a number of anecdotes about individual Jesuits that I am still investigating. In some cases, I need more information, such as determining how many men in the province at a given time had the same relatively common name. In other cases, however, I am trying to figure out what a particular passage means. I will discuss one of these instances, correspondence concerning Brother Pedro Urbano, in my lightning talk.
This collection demonstrates the importance of interdisciplinary approaches that are grounded in the methodologies of the humanities. (In many institutional contexts, interdisciplinarity often consists of the use statistical methods more common in the social sciences by scholars of the humanities). This collection, however, demonstrates the value of deep engagement with texts and their interpretation. Moreover, many of the authors, myself included, have done significant research in archives and rare book libraries to find the texts that we analyze.
I would like to think that the study of gender has been accepted as a valid field of inquiry, but every time I think that this is the case, another naysayer reminds me that this still is not so. This collection demonstrates the state of gender studies in 2021: gender is an inflection point in theoretically engaged analysis of other topics. In Health and Healing in the Early Modern Iberian World, gender is a fulcrum in the interaction between multiple fields, in this case between medicine, treatment paradigms and faith.