In eighteenth-century literature, negative representations of Catholic nuns and convents were pervasive. Yet, during the politico-religious crises initiated by the French Revolution, a striking literary shift took place as British writers championed the cause of nuns, lauded their socially relevant work, and addressed the attraction of the convent for British women. Interactions with Catholic religious, including priests and nuns, Tonya J Moutray argues, motivated writers, including Hester Thrale Piozzi, Helen Maria Williams, and Charlotte Smith, to revaluate the historical and contemporary utility of religious refugees. Beyond an analysis of literary texts, Moutray's study also examines nuns’ personal and collective narratives, as well as news coverage of their arrival to England, enabling a nuanced investigation of a range of issues, including nuns' displacement and imprisonment in France, their rhetorical and practical strategies to resist authorities, representations of refugee migration to and resettlement in England, relationships with benefactors and locals, and the legal status of "English" nuns and convents in England, including their work in recruitment and education. Moutray shows how writers and the media negotiated the multivalent figure of the nun during the 1790s, shaping British perceptions of nuns and convents during a time critical to their survival.
"By introducing historians to the writing of literary authors, Tonya Moutray has added a new dimension to the study of the English convents in exile, their sufferings as a result of the Revolution and their reception in England."
- Caroline Bowden, Queen Mary University of London, UK
"The strengths of Refugee Nuns, the French Revolution, and British Literature and Culture are its admirable mix of primary and secondary sources, as well as its nuanced discussion of the refugee population above and beyond their corporate identity or the negative stereotypes perpetuated by anti-Catholic sentiment."
- Orianne Smith, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA, European Romantic Review
Contents: Preface; Introduction; Encountering convents abroad: Hester Thrale Piozzi, Ann Radcliffe, William Cole, Samuel Paterson, and Philip Thicknesse; Spoiled economies and violated virgins: the Benedictines of Montargis, Abbé Augustin Barruel, and the French emigration; Resistant virtue in flight: the Blue Nuns, Helen Maria Williams, and reluctant returns; Refugee resources and competitive curricula: Frances Burney, Charlotte Smith, and the Augustinians of Bruges; Epilogue; Bibliography; Index.