The Religions and Public Life Initiative at KIE co-sponsors a seminar on Sunday, December 10, at 5:00pm, with the Triangle Intellectual History Seminar. Charly Coleman (Columbia University), will give a talk, “The Economy of the Mysteries: Penance, the Eucharist, and the Proliferation of Sacramental Wealth in Early Modern France.”
Abstract: My paper takes as its point of departure the seventeenth-century resurgence in the adoration of the Eucharist and its singularly productive elements, not only in theological and philosophical treatises, but also among lay confraternities, members of which were authorized to receive specific spiritual advantages, including plenary and partial indulgences. The Cartesian position, advanced by the Oratorian Jean Terrasson among others, reinforced Eucharistic associations with boundlessness, by characterizing the metamorphoses it implied as representative of the infinite power of God. An economic logic, I argue, underpinned such practices, which furnished the believer a means of cancelling the debt occasioned by sin through the inexhaustible font of grace accumulated by the labor of saints and administered by the Church. This Catholic ethic, pace Weber’s account of its Protestant counterpart, privileged the marvelous over the mundane, consumption over production, the pleasures of enjoyment over the rigors of delayed gratification.
Charly Coleman is an assistant professor of history at Columbia University, where he teaches courses on early modern and modern Europe, as well as in the Core Curriculum. He received his Ph.D. in history at Stanford University. Before coming to Columbia, he taught at the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis. Coleman specializes in the history of eighteenth-century France, with a particular emphasis on the intersections between religion and Enlightenment thought. His first book, The Virtues of Abandon (Stanford University Press, 2014; awarded the 2016 Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies), fundamentally recasts the French Enlightenment as a protracted struggle to fix the self’s relationship to property in its myriad forms. In so doing, it uncovers a wide-ranging, coherent, and influential culture of dispossession, the partisans of which fought to strip the self of its property, its personality, and even its very existence as an individual. Coleman has further elaborated the stakes of this anti-individualist history of the period in a series of articles and book chapters, including pieces for Modern Intellectual History, The Journal of Modern History, and The Cambridge Companion to the French Enlightenment. His most recent research has turned to the crucial role played by economic theology during the long eighteenth century in France, with an eye to revealing a distinctly Catholic ethic that animated the spirit of capitalism at its inception.
Sunday, December 11
National Humanities Center in RTP