CFP – Holy Children

Call for Papers, Sixteenth Century Society and Conference, Fort Worth, 27-30 October 2011
Holy Children

This session will focus on early modern infants, children, and adolescents of both sexes who were perceived by their contemporaries to be preternaturally favored by God. In some instances, women writing spiritual autobiographies – Ana de San Bartolomé (1549-1626), for example – presented themselves as having been precociously holy. In most cases, recognition came posthumously. On the extreme end of the scale lie two small boys – Simon of Trent (d. 1475 ) and Cristóbal, “el santo niño de La Guardia” (d. 1491) – whose deaths were exploited for the purpose of propagating the blood libel against the Jews. Many more cases of holy children await close examination.

Presentations should attend to at least some of the following issues. What models for and motifs of childhood holiness can be discerned? Which of the several conceptions of life stages (three, four, six, seven, ten, or more “ages of man”; alternative “ages of women”) seem to have been in play in a given situation? What did “holiness” mean in a particular place and time? How did a child’s holiness initially became a matter of publica voce et fama (common talk and reputation) in a single discursive community? How did the word spread? Did it then enter the domain of printed verbal and/or figurative representation? Did ecclesiastical and secular authorities ignore, endorse, or try to suppress it? What broader significance in the relevant social, cultural, religious, and political environment does a case or set of cases have?

Two analytical studies of early modern holy children may provide food for thought:
Isabelle Poutrin, “Souvenirs d’enfance: L’apprentissage de la sainteté dans l’Espagne moderne.” Mélanges de la Casa de Velásquez 33 (1987): 331-54.
Pierroberto Scaramella. I Santolilli. Culti dell’infanzia e santità infantile a Napoli alla fine del XVII secolo. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1997.

Proposals on all geographical areas and from practitioners of all disciplines are welcome. Send abstracts to Anne Jacobson Schutte,