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Title:Nuns' stories, nuns' voices: Resistance at the margins of patriarchal ideology
Author(s):Mourao, Maria Manuela Martins
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Smarr, Janet L.
Department / Program:Comparative and World Literature
Discipline:Comparative Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Comparative
Literature, Romance
Religion, General
Women's Studies
Literature, English
Abstract:Nuns' ambiguous position within patriarchy makes them particularly interesting subjects for a feminist study on power, resistance and representation. This work starts out by putting the concept of nun into historical perspective and by analyzing the act of becoming a nun as a particular practice of womanhood. Chapter I looks at female religious communities and analyzes their ideological meaning, i.e., their importance as separate female spaces. It considers different historical representations of nuns and convents and emphasizes the gap between the way nuns and convents are represented by patriarchal historical texts and the way they are reinterpreted by feminist historians as they take into account female subjectivity.
Chapter II looks at the concept of nun created by fictional representations in France and in England from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. A survey of the novels about nuns demonstrates that the negative stereotypes resulting from misogyny and anti-clerical impulses--namely the nun as a wanton woman and the convent as a whorehouse, or the nun as a heart-broken lover and the convent as a prison--prevailed and informed the public's perceptions.
It is only when, after Vatican II, nuns themselves appropriate the power of representation and start writing about themselves that a different concept of nun reaches the public. Chapter III compares exoteric and esoteric representations and emphasizes the impulse to resist patriarchal oppression behind nuns' autobiographies.
Chapter IV engages in revising the literary stereotypes. A rereading of the traditional interpretations of Les Lettres Portugaises (1669), Diderot's La Religieuse (1760) and Muriel Spark's The Abbess of Crewe (1974) underscores the role of the convent as a potentially powerful space for subverting patriarchal rule and analyzes the different strategies that the different nuns use in order to undermine phallogocentrism.
Issue Date:1990
Rights Information:Copyright 1990 Mourao, Maria Manuela Martins
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9114353
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9114353

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