Familiar Letters and Familiar Faces

in Sojourners in a Strange Land

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226355597
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226355610 | DOI:
Familiar Letters and Familiar Faces

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The mixed legacy of the intense image-making that characterized the first century of the Society of Jesus's presence in the Middle Kingdom underwrites the reappearance of the various personae of the Jesuit missionary man of science in a forum outside their generic homes: the familiar letter. First articulated in Louis Lecomte's Nouveaux memoires sur la Chine, then serialized in the pages of the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses, and ultimately synthesized in Jean-Baptiste du Halde's la Chine (1735), the Enlightenment's touchstone for matters Chinese, this epistolary form provided a stage on which the scientific missionary could reenact all of his various personae, free of the burdens and limitations imposed by their native genres. This chapter explores these manifestations and sets the sundry personations of the missionary man of science against the backdrop of the closing decades of the Jesuits' adventure in late imperial China.

Keywords: Society of Jesus; science; familiar letter; personations; China; Jesuits; Jean-Baptiste du Halde; Louis Lecomte; scientific missionary

Chapter.  7588 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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