Praised in The Atlantic Monthly as an "engrossing narrative," Nuns tells the fascinating stories of the women who have lived in religious communities during some of the most tumultuous years in European history. Drawing particularly on the nuns' own words, Silvia Evangelisti reveals their ideals and achievements, frustrations and failures, and their attempts to reach out to the society around them.
She explores how they came to the cloister, how they responded to monastic discipline, and how they pursued their spiritual, intellectual, and missionary activities. Indeed, nuns often found a way to contribute to their communities by creating charities and schools, while a few exceptional women made names for themselves for their artistic talents or for establishing new convents. This book features the individual stories of some of the most outstanding historical figures, including Teresa of Avila, who set up over seventeen new convents. Evangelisti shows how these women were able to overcome some of the restrictions placed on women in their societies at large. In doing so, she provides a fascinating and rarely seen glimpse into their intriguing world.
Table of Contents
1. On Nuns and Nunneries
2. Cloistered Spaces
3. Voices from the Cloister
4. Theatre and Music
5. The Visual Arts
6. Expansions: Nuns across the Globe
7. Open Communities of Women
Silvia Evangelisti is Lecturer in Early Modern History in the School of History at the University of East Anglia.
Masterful...a tapestry that succeeds in combining serious scholarship with a writing style that is accessible to the lay reader...Evangelisti writes with authority and insight into the 250-year struggle to negotiate the complex tension between enclosure and worldly involvement, silence and speech, class and wealth, contemplation and action. Nuns is a fascinating history of a period that gave us the style of religious life we know today, a history that models how women can learn to live with paradox and change as they give form to their desire to worship and serve.
- Catholic News Service
Rich and insightful...These women, in any age they might have lived, were extraordinary as they embraced their prayerful lived enthusiastically, while demonstrating effective leadershipa nd uncommon wisdom. This book is clearly that of a serious scholar who has the ability to make her prose come alive...In all its elegant detail this publication is a significant contribution.
- Catholic Library World