Taming worldly emotions and appetites
in English Benedictine nuns in exile in the seventeenth century
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Early modern nuns belonged to ‘emotional communities’, with their own ways of expressing emotions. In this chapter, the emotional experiences of individuals are compared to the communal constructions that make up the collective emotionology of their cloistered context. The personal writings of English Benedictine nuns reveal their efforts to comply with clerical prescriptive literature on emotions, usually construed as passions or appetites, and described as enemies of spirituality. Yet nuns’ relationships with emotions (and more generally with the body as a vector of emotions) remained complex. On their way to the spiritual, many religious women struggled to reconcile what they really felt with what they were taught they should feel.


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