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Reviewed by:
  • San Francisco Javier entre dos continentes
  • Gauvin Alexander Bailey
San Francisco Javier entre dos continentes. Edited by Ignacio Arellano, Alejandro González Acosta, and Arnulfo Herrera. Madrid: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2007. Pp. 269. Notes. Bibliography. Illustrations. $46.20 paper.

This lively if uneven collection of essays commemorating the legacy and impact of Francis Xavier in Europe, Asia, and Latin America is a welcome addition to the literature not only because intercontinental volumes are still relatively rare, but because Francis Xavier studies have blossomed since 1999 when Japanese scholars celebrated the 450th anniversary of his arrival in Japan with numerous conferences and exhibitions. Latin American scholars have been less forthcoming, probably because the "Apostle to the Indies" never set foot in the Western Hemisphere, even though he made a powerful impact on the region through imagery, printed books, theater, and ideology.

In honor of Xavier's 500th birthday, this joint Spanish-Mexican collection of essays gives us a sweeping spectrum of Xavieriana, at times bringing together the much more developed Asian scholarship with that on the Americas. The volume embraces fields as diverse as literary and theater history and the history of art and architecture with six papers devoted to dramas, festivals, a sonnet, and a novel. In addition, four studies focus on Xavier's iconography and impact on the ideology of Jesuit architecture. It is refreshing to see a volume so concerned with culture. Unlike more traditional studies of the saint, it is light on church history and avoids confessionalism.

Given the active and at times controversial role played by the Society of Jesus in promoting theater and spectacle, it is important to have contributions like Ignacio Arellano's masterly study of the comedy Las glorias del mejor siglo (1640), a celebration of the Society's first centenary showcasing Xavier and Ignatius of Loyola. No less detailed is Carmen García Valdés's rehabilitation of an unpublished play written in New Spain (Mexico) to commemorate Xavier's entry into Japan. A paean to proselytization, the work demonstrates how important Jesuit expansion in Japan was in the popular imagination of Latin American Catholics, particularly in Mexico City where Jesuit theater was an "almost [End Page 115] daily" feature of religious life (p. 35). These two studies make a useful accompaniment to other recent research and performances of theatrical Xavieriana. The chapter on festivals celebrating the beatification of Ignatius and Francis makes a significant contribution to the study of ephemeral activities in the Baroque world, and should be read alongside the scholarship on the activities of viceregal poets Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Luís de Góngora, as well as works on Jesuit ephemera like Jeffrey Muller's study of the 1640 Jesuit centenary celebrations. Maria Cristina Osswald gives us an important overview of the origins of Xavier iconography in Portugal, including the famous painted series of his life at São Roque in Lisbon, and Gabriela Torres Olleta looks at Xavier's afterlife in prints, although neither article considers recent work by Midori Wakakuwa, who has assembled a more thorough series of imagery and worked out a sophisticated chronology for an inconsistent iconographic tradition that was never as enthusiastically promoted by the Society as that of Ignatius of Loyola.

As with most conference volumes, this book is uneven. Jesús Gómez Fregoso's piece on Paris university life when the first Jesuits were students there is brief with few sources. Even more perfunctory—its brevity is especially curious given its vast number of illustrations—is Emilio Quesada's chapter on inculturation in the art (by which he primarily means architecture) of the Society in the Americas. Not only is the topic extremely ambitious, but the author also cites no sources in a field that has witnessed a groundswell of scholarly interest in the past two decades. Rogelio Ruiz's chapter on New Spanish painting is much more thorough, although it would have benefited from illustrations. Despite these shortcomings, this modest volume merits the attention of those interested in the cultural—especially literary—legacy of Francis Xavier in Europe and Latin America, and will complement the more substantial literature on the saint's legacy in...


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pp. 115-116
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