Relationships, generational discourse and the ‘turn to self’
in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age
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Chapter 4 addresses the changing tenor of homosocial relationships within monastic and convent female homosocial spaces as a move from the formal to the relational. Women’s experiences of religious life are analysed to understand how relationships were understood and lived. The first section considers the ‘common life’, communal ways of inhabiting the social spaces of the convent that held religious life together. As the horarium that regulated the religious day was altered, the permission-centred model of religious life became one that allowed for personal responsibility. The formal structures of the ‘common life’ provided a unity that was now questioned and relationships grounded in formerly rigid structures were renegotiated. The second section addresses the complex, relational nature of these shifts and questions the language of generations used to identify those for and against change. The convent, often imagined as a conservative site of religious piety, became a place of radical activism and generational dissonance when a discourse of personal and shared responsibility challenged matriarchal social hierarchies.