Reconsidering the Nun in Fiction
AUTHOR: MourÃƒÂ£o, Manuela
PUBLISHER: University Press of Florida
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"A comprehensive analysis of the figure of the nun in several different cultures. . . Mourao has done valuable research in compiling a bibliography and bringing to the reader's attention little known works which expand our awareness of the figure of the nun through the ages."--Linda S. Kauffman, University of Maryland, College Park
In a comprehensive analysis of the nun in literature, Manuela Mourao challenges the notion that nuns are "women who lead unnatural lives, most probably because they were disappointed in love or because they failed to adjust to 'reality'."
Unique in the breadth of its historical and literary scope--the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries and the national literatures of France and England, with references to those of Portugal, Italy, and the U.S.--Altered Habits examines the representation of nuns and convents in a range of primary sources, both canonical and more culturally marginal. Expanding on the familiar accounts of anti-Catholic and misogynous stereotypes, Mourao relates the more familiar French texts to both English and Portuguese traditions, as well as to contemporary autobiographies of nuns.
Mourao's is the first study to trace the fictional tropes across cultures and to articulate a feminist critique of the misrepresentations of this important female figure, from evil abbess, to naive victim, to more romantic stereotypes. She provides substantial documentation of the various tropes along with difficult to access bibliographic information, including citations of a number of little-known works. Her interpretation of their social and political implications illuminates the mechanisms that allowed them to take hold, to endure, and ultimately to suppress alternatives. Finally, she highlights a number of post-Vatican II works in which the stereotypes have been transformed and, she argues, a reconsideration of traditional imagery has begun to take place.
Manuela Mourao is associate professor of English at Old Dominion University.
PUBLICATION DATE: 6/30/2002
CATEGORY: Literary Criticism