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Catholic Written and Oral Cultures in Seventeenth-Century Vietnam

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Abstract This article explores how European Jesuit missionaries engaged with literary and oral cultures in seventeenth-century Tonkin and Cochinchina (Vietnam). It considers the many interactions between texts, oral cultures, and the sacred on the mission fields, and the challenges of communicating with the divine in a new language. Missionary projects to translate sacramental phrases—such as the baptismal formula—into local languages could be particularly controversial: missionaries had to ensure that the translation did not affect the validity of the sacrament. This article examines how missionaries attempted to preserve the spiritual potency of Catholic holy texts and sacred words in a new cultural context and uncovers the strategies they adopted to convey the sacrality of Catholic writings and speech.

Affiliations: 1: European University Institute


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