Research Stream

Eleonora Rai

Dr Eleonora Rai is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Meanings Program of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE), working in the 'Jesuit Emotions project' with Prof. Yasmin Haskell at The University of Western Australia. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at ‘Fondazione Confalonieri’ (University of Milan) in mid-2016. In 2016 she has also been appointed Assistant Dean at Newman College (The University of Melbourne). She was an Associate Investigator with CHE in 2015.

Eleonora’s research focuses on various aspects of the history of the Roman Church and Christianity in Early Modern and Contemporary Age. She is particularly interested in early modern and contemporary European religious history, ‘Jesuit Emotions’ and visual culture. She is currently investigating the 'Emotions of the Suppression' of the Society of Jesus, with particular attention paid to the Restorer of the Society, José Pignatelli; she is also investigating the role of emotions and visual techniques in the missions of the Jesuit Paolo Segneri Senior and the Franciscan Leonardo of Porto Maurizio, in Early Modern Italy (17th‒18th centuries).

From November 2013 to June 2015 she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Academic Catholic Centre (Rome) with a project on the policy of sanctity of the New Society of Jesus.

Eleonora obtained her Double PhD in History in March 2014 (cotutelle program between the University of Milan and the École pratique des hautes études, in Paris) with a thesis on the Flemish Jesuit theologian Leonard Lessius (1554-1623): she investigated Lessius’s cause for beatification, the theological controversies on grace and human freedom in which he was involved in Leuven (1587), and his theory on lending at interest.

She also wrote a book, based on her Master’s thesis, dealing with the case of Angela and Teresa Isacchi, who claimed to receive prophetic revelations on the destiny of the Roman Church and the Austrian Empire, in the Italian 19th century.

During these years, Eleonora has collaborated with the Late Professor Paola Vismara (History of the Church and History of Christianity and Churches in the Early Modern and Contemporary Age, University of Milan) as casual lecturer and member of the Oral Exam Committee for the postgraduate course of History of the Church.



Politics and Emotions: The Two Faces of Jesuit Sainthood (Seventeenth‒Nineteenth Centuries)

Emotions and visual techniques in the conduct of Jesuit missions in Early Modern Italy. Paolo Segneri Senior's religio carnalis and theatrical method (17th century)

Jesuit Emotions



Rai E. La Santa Parola. Le veggenti di Pusiano e i loro seguaci, Edizioni Biblioteca Francescana, Milano, 2013 (215 p.) [The Holy Word. The prophetesses of Pusiano and their followers]

(See also the review of the book in Archivio Storico Lombardo [2014]: 505–08)

Refereed Journal Articles

Rai, E. ‘“Come le Anime del Purgatorio”. Le Emozioni dell’Attesa nelle Indipetae Italiane durante il Generalato di Jan Roothaan’. Ricerche di Storia Sociale e Religiosa 88 (2017): 67‒88 [Topic: Jesuit emotions and litterae indipetae (letters requesting to go to missions)]

Rai, E. ‘Between Augustine and Pelagius: Leonard Lessius in the Leuven Controversies, from 1587 to the 20th century’. Journal of Baroque Studies 4.1 (2016): 79–106.

Rai, E. ‘TheOdor of Sanctity”. Veneration and Strategies in Leonard Lessius's Cause for Beatification (seventeenth-twentieth centuries)’. Journal of Jesuit Studies 3.2 (2016): 238–58.

Rai E. 'All’ombra della Santa Parola. Dio, il Diavolo e il XIX secolo'. Ricerche storiche sulla Chiesa Ambrosiana XXXI (2013): 203-30. [In the shade of the Holy Word. God, the Devil and the 19th century]

Rai E. 'L’apocalittica come spiegazione ai «mali» del XIX secolo. Il caso di Giacomo Maria Montini (1874)'. Ricerche storiche sulla Chiesa Ambrosiana XXVII (2009):167–90 ['Apocalypticism as an explanation of the "ills" of the 19th century: The case of Giacomo Maria Montini (1874)'].

Conference Papers

Rai E. 'La “clamorosa” processione del Venerdì Santo. Sregolata devozione nella Pusiano “teresotta"',  'Una Sacra Passione: feste, processioni, rappresentazioni tra sacro e civile nel Milanese' conference, Archivio Storico Diocesano di Milano (Historical Archive of the Diocese of Milan), Italy, 30 May 2014. [Research topic: The catholic rite of the Good Friday procession in Pusiano (near Milan) organised by the followers of two prophetesses]. Proceedings of the conference will be published in December 2015.

Rai E. 'The Emotions of Conversion: Visual Techniques and Preaching in Paolo Segneri Senior’s Missions (16551694)', 'Emotions: Movement, Cultural Contact and Exchange, 1100‒1800' conference, Freie Universität Berlin, 30  June to 2 July 2016.

Rai E. 'The "Odour of Sanctity". Veneration and Politics in Leonard Lessius’s Cause for Beatification (Seventeenth–Twentieth Centuries)', Early Modern Circle, The University of Melbourne, 16 May 2016.

Rai E. 'Feeling the Passion of Christ. Visual Objects and Emotions in Paolo Segneri Senior’s and Leonardo of Porto Maurizio’s Italian missions (1665–1750)', 'Religious Materiality and Emotion' symposium, The University of Adelaide, 16‒18 February 2016.

Rai E. 'Learning About Salvation: Sin and Hope in the Leuven Controversies (1587)',  'Passions for Learning in Religious Perspective: from Jerome to the Jesuits' symposium, The University of Western Australia, 5‒6 November 2015.


2008: Premio (award) NED ‘Amici del Duomo’ for my bachelor's thesis L’attesa dell’Anticristo nella riflessione ottocentesca. Il caso di G.M. Montini (1874).