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Journal > Volumes > 48 (2017) / 1 (Spring)
How to Become a Jesuit Crypto-Jew: The Self-Confessionalization of Giovanni Battista Eliano through the Textual Artifice of Conversion
Robert John Clines
Western Carolina University

In his reflections on being the only Jewish-born Jesuit, Giovanni Battista Eliano (1530–89) deliberated over the nature of religious conversion. Early in his career, Eliano did not hide the difficulties and personal dilemmas that he and other converts faced. However, in the wake of increased institutional skepticism concerning conversion and the dedication of Jewish-lineage Jesuits, Eliano recast conversion from a lifelong process of belonging to an instantaneous act of becoming via baptism. This shift in how Eliano textually constructed conversion demonstrates that confessionalization was driven by more than religious consolidation via political and social institutions, but centered on a dialogic exchange between individuals and society that stimulated confession building. This dialogue, what I call self-confessionalization, allows for a more complex understanding of how confessional self-representation was in conversation with socioreligious dynamics, and is central to seeing confessionalization and cross-confessional encounters as evolutionary processes rather than static forms.

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