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“In the Choir with the Clerics”: Secularism in the Age of Inquisition

Abstract

This essay was part of a special issue of CL on secularism edited by Michael Allan. Contributors included Saba Mahmood, Tomoko Masuzawa, Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, and others.

Kimmel, Seth. “‘In the Choir with the Clerics’: Secularism in the Age of Inquisition.” Comparative Literature 65.3 (2013): 285-305. Print.

This essay argues that the effort to define and police the shifting boundaries of Christianity in early modern Spain produced a counter-intuitive peninsular logic of secularization. Hoping to stem the extension of ecclesiastical power over everyday cultural life, New Christians and religious reformers defended the authority of civic tribunals to regulate the social conditions of faith.

This attempt to secularize the crime of heresy was not simply a call for the Crown to execute a coercive religious agenda. On the contrary, by turning late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century inquisitorial regimes of discipline and dissimulation to critical pastoral and political ends, New Christians such as the negotiator Francisco Núñez Muley and reformers such as the court historian Pedro de Valencia sought to transform both Christian orthodoxy and civic identity.

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