Sensitive but Sane: Male Visionaries and their Emotional Display in Interwar Belgium


  • Tine Van Osselaer



When a wave of Marian apparitions swept over Belgium in 1932-1935 many ‘visionaries’ (c. 200), among them a remarkably high number of men, claimed to encounter the divine. Focusing on these male visionaries and their emotional expressivity, this article aims not only at contributing to a better understanding of Catholic constructions of masculinity, it also accords with the increased attention for the historicity of emotions and, more specifically, for men’s emotional comportment.


The male visionaries present a particularly interesting case since they had to live up to multiple expectations about their emotions. Whereas their visibility and trustworthiness as visionaries were founded on their capacity to display their emotions (in accordance with a tradition of emotional mysticism), these men also had to show ‘masculine’ rationality and coolness in order to prove that their experiences were not triggered by exaggerated piety or neurosis.


This article is part of the special issue 'Low Countries Histories of Masculinity'.


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Author Biography

Tine Van Osselaer

Tine Van Osselaer (1979) is a post-doctoral researcher at K.U.Leuven. She is currently working on a research project on Marian apparitions in Belgium in the 1930s (sponsored by the Research Foundation Flanders) and has published on religious history and gender history: e.g. Tine Van Osselaer and Alexander Maurits, ‘Heroic Men and Christian ideals’, in: Yvonne-Maria Werner (ed.), Christian Masculinity: Men and Religion in Northern Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Leuven 2011) 63-94; Tine Van Osselaer, ‘Mystics of a Modern Time?: Public Mystical Experiences in Belgium in the 1930s’, Revue Belge de Philologie et d’Histoire 88:4 (2010) 1171-1188; Tine Van Osselaer, ‘Christening Masculinity?: Catholic Action and Men in Interwar Belgium’, Gender & History 21:2 (2009) 380-401.




How to Cite

Van Osselaer, T. (2012). Sensitive but Sane: Male Visionaries and their Emotional Display in Interwar Belgium. BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 127(1), 127–149.