Nuns writing: Translation, textual mobility and transnational networks
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Coolahan, Marie-Louise. (2018). Nuns Writing: Translation, Textual Mobility and Transnational Networks. In Patricia Phillippy (Ed.), A History of Early Modern Women's Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Post-Reformation Catholic religious orders provided women with privileged, multi-layered spaces for authorship, readership, and textual transmission. Exile and travel were imperative for British and Irish women religious, exposing them to cross-cultural encounters and international influences. Convent membership nurtured as co-extensive a set of identities – national and transnational, individual and communal – that, in other contexts, were perceived as conflicting. The kinds of writing produced in these convents ranged from obituary and chronicle history to religious rules and devotional translations. They were required for the female religious community; they addressed, documented, and shaped that female readership. But these texts also participated in the Counter-Reformation effort and sustained interest beyond their initial, female audience. The religious orders, with their pan-European reach, functioned as transnational networks for the circulation of women’s writings. This wider transmission and reception illuminates questions relating to gender and authorial credit – itself a complex topic when convent identity prizes the collective and collaborative over individual authorship or attribution. This chapter grounds its discussion of these issues in the devotional and life writings associated with Mary Ward and Lucy Knatchbull, the translations made by English and Irish Poor Clares, and Susan Hawley’s account of the Sepulchrine convent at Liège.
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