Nicky Hallett has uncovered a major new source of material by and about English nuns living in exile in the Low Countries during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This volume presents the women's voices in unmediated form, direct in all their vibrancy, with an extensive introduction that provides historical and cultural contexts for an understanding of the Lives, their sources and their authors. Lives of Spirit draws upon several remarkable sets of papers compiled in enclosed convents between 1619 and 1794. These documents show that religious women developed an astute system of auto/biographical practice within a protean political situation, and that, even in exile and from within enclosure, they sought to shape a distinctive contribution to devotional change within a reforming church. This volume reveals how the women's Lives challenge, as well as affirm, notions of gendered spirituality, refiguring traditions of female life-writing that extend from Catherine of Siena (1347 - 80) through the work of the Carmelite reformer, Teresa of Avila (1515 - 82), into the later modern period. The newness of the material in this book allows a radical reappraisal of the self-representation of religious women and of paradigms of life-writing in, and beyond, the early modern period. This book is of significant interest to scholars interested in early modern women's writing, female spirituality, and auto/biography more widely as a genre.
Nicky Hallett is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English at the University of Sheffield, UK. She co-founded and jointly directs a Centre for Gender, Sexuality & Writing. She has written several studies about early modern female religious communities, as well as work on Chaucer, contemporary literature, self-writing and gender.
’These Carmelite documents are largely unpublished and have been hitherto inaccessible to lay scholars: Hallett is to be congratulated on obtaining the permission of present-day Carmelites to publish these lengthy extracts as they will be of considerable interest to the wider scholarly community... the final result for the reader is a series of individual lives brought together with insight and empathy, clarified by explanatory footnotes where necessary... In a most useful Appendix we are given extracts of the Constitutions and Rule of St Albert another text which is not easily available but which formed the bedrock of conventual life... We look forward to promised future volumes.’ Historians of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland ’This book is a useful resource, not only for the history of the Carmelites, or that of early-modern religious or female religious, but for an understanding of how the Life of the Spirit was expressed in the lives - and deaths - of women.’ Carmelus