Kirk Essary

Kirk Essary a Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern History at The University of Western Australia, and was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Meanings Program of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE) from 2015 to 2018. He holds an MA in Classics (Texas Tech University, 2008), an MA in Religions of Western Antiquity (Florida State University, 2010), and a PhD in Religion (Florida State University, 2014). His first book, Erasmus and Calvin on the Foolishness of God: Reason and Emotion in the Christian Philosophy (University of Toronto Press, 2017), examines the role of Pauline folly in the conceptions of the “Christian philosophy” in the works of Erasmus and John Calvin, with an eye to Erasmus’ influence on the sixteenth-century Protestant exegetical tradition.

His research for the Centre focused on conceptions of emotion in sixteenth-century religious thought and intellectual history. He works primarily on Erasmus and John Calvin, and analyses their understanding of the emotions in the larger context of the Renaissance and Reformation reception of classical, biblical, and patristic ideas. He is also interested in the role of emotion and affectivity in the history of rhetoric, in sermons and preaching manuals, and in the theological discourse of early modern biblical humanists.

In 2018 Essary was appointed the Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotion.



“More of the Heart than the Brain”: Impassioned Knowledge and the Christian Philosophy in the Renaissance and Reformation

Passions for Learning



Essary, K. Erasmus and Calvin on the Foolishness of God: Reason and Emotion in the Christian Philosophy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017.

Edited Book

Ruys, J. F., M. W. Champion and K. Essary, eds. Before Emotion: The Language of Feeling, 400–1800. London and New York: Routledge, 2019.

Special Issue Journal

Essary, K., ed. ‘Erasmus and Emotion’, special issue, Erasmus Studies 40.2 (2020).

Refereed Articles

‘Protean Passions: Erasmus, Emotions, and Classical Myth’. ‘Erasmus and Emotion’, special issue, Erasmus Studies 40.2 (2020): 174–93.

'Calm and Violent Passions: The Genealogy of a Distinction from Quintilian to Hume' (co-authored with Yasmin Haskell). Erudition and the Republic of Letters 3.1 (2018): 55–81.

'Enduring Erasmus: Reception and Emotion in Christian Humanism'. Church History and Religious Culture 97 (2017): 322–33.

'Annotating the Affections: The Philology of Feeling in Erasmus’ New Testament Scholarship and Its Reception in Early Modern Dictionaries'. Erasmus Studies 37.2 (2017): 193–216

‘Passions, Emotions, or Affections? On the Ambiguity of 16th-Century Terminology’. Emotion Review 9.4 (2017): 367–74.

‘Clear as Mud: Metaphor, Emotion, and Meaning in Early Modern England’. English Studies 98.7 (online now, in print late 2017).

'Jewish Antiquity in the Sixteenth Century: Calvin’s Reception of Josephus'. Church History 86:3 (2017): 668–94

‘Fiery Heart and Fiery Tongue: Emotion in Erasmus’ Ecclesiastes’. Erasmus Studies 36.1 (2016): 5–35.

'“Milk for Babes": Erasmus and Calvin on the Problem of Christian Eloquence'. Reformation and Renaissance Review 16.3 (2014).

'Calvin’s Interpretation of Christ’s Agony at Gethsemane: An Erasmian Reading?'. Toronto Journal of Theology 29.1 (Spring, 2014).

'“We Languish in Obscurity": The Silence of God as Atavistic Calvinism in Cormac McCarthy’s Fiction'. Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 97.3 (2014).

'The Radical Humility of Christ in the 16th Century: Erasmus and Calvin on Philippians 2:6-7'.  The Scottish Journal of Theology 68.4 (November 2015): 398–420.

Book Chapters

Essary, K. ‘Rhetorical Theology and the History of Emotions’. In The Routledge History of Emotions in Europe, 1100–1700, edited by A. Lynch and S. Broomhall, pp. 86–102. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2020. (Published July 2019).

‘The Renaissance of affectus? Biblical Humanism and Latin Style’. In Before Emotion: The Language of Feeling, 400–1800, edited by J. F. Ruys, M. W. Champion and K. Essary, pp. 156–70. New York and London: Routledge, 2019.