Through the prisms of psychoanalysis and narrative theory the article addresses the concepts of temporality and transgenerational phantom in Elizabeth Gaskells Gothic piece ‘The Poor Clare’ (1856). Gaskells text, which revolves around an ancestral curse, is but a loose repetitious narrative characterized by the circularity of its structure and tone – its end casting one back into its middle – with its narrator narrating the past locked into the present, which is completely determined by the future, by the curse to be fulfilled. Narration becomes unsettling and obsessional, revealing the texts shared phantoms/foreign bodies as these implicate the characters and the narrating persona in a complex web of unconscious identifications and psychic splits, eventually coming to congeal around the biblical prophecy: ‘the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children’. In being reiterated throughout, the cryptic and (encrypted) words reaffirm both the efficacy of the curse –which always already doubles back on the one that has hurled it – and the texts playing out of desire and trauma, thus rendering the celebrated subject of the Enlightment both an ailing subject and an alien to itself.
This book examines the activities of William Blundell, a seventeenth-century Catholic gentleman, and using the approaches of the history of reading provides a detailed analysis of his mindset. Blundell was neither the passive victim nor the entirely loyal subject that he and others have claimed. He actively defended his family from the penal laws and used the relative freedom that this gave him to patronise other Catholics. In his locality, Blundell ensured that the township of Little Crosby was populated almost entirely by his co-religionists, on a national level he constructed and circulated arguments supporting the removal of the penal laws, and on an international level he worked as an agent for the Poor Clares of Rouen. That he cannot be defined solely by his victimhood is further supported by his commonplace notes. Not only did Blundell rewrite the histories of recent civil conflicts to show that Protestants were prone to rebellion and Catholics to loyalty, but we also find a different perspective on his religious beliefs. His commonplaces suggest an underlying tension with aspects of Catholicism that is manifest throughout his notes on his practical engagement with the world, in which it is clear that he was wrestling with the various aspects of his identity. This examination of Blundell's political and cultural worlds complicates generalisations about early modern religious identities.
Elizabeth Gaskell used Gothic as a symbolic language to explore the dark side of Unitarian thought. She explores, in rationalist terms, evils origins, effects, and remedy, using Gothic tropes as metaphors for humanly created misery. Gaskell locates the roots of ‘evil’ in an unenlightened social order – in ‘The Crooked Branch’ erroneous parenting, and in ‘The Poor Clare’ wider social structures, both distorted by the ideology of privilege. ‘The Poor Clare’ also engages with the tension between moral determinism and personal responsibility, and defends a Unitarian salvation. This tale also demonstrates Gaskell‘s views on aspects of Roman Catholicism.
and grounded it in the renewed spiritual, intellectual and apostolic understanding of religious life.
Television presenter Alan Whicker was less convinced of the emancipation of women religious. In his series ‘Whicker, Within a Woman’s World’ he introduced a community of PoorClares as ‘the most unliberated women in the world’. 2 But were they? Many scholars of nineteenth-century women religious have argued that women religious had agency, some even controversially suggesting their proto-feminism. 3 However, decision-making power among women religious was
he seek to alleviate
the suﬀerings of English Catholics by oﬀering both religious and practical
support, but at risk to himself and his family he also provided charity for Irish
Catholics. Furthermore, Blundell was a zealous supporter of English religious
houses on the continent and by 1660 he was entrusted with vast sums of
money to farm out on behalf of the PoorClares of Rouen and became one of
their foremost ﬁnancial agents in England. Finally, in his writings he provided
arguments for the removal of the penal laws and the admission of Catholics
into every area
In 1969, Abbess Mary Joseph regaled the PoorClares of Darlington on her return from the vocations exhibition in Leeds with ‘interesting and amusing’ talks on religious life, ‘especially on how to deal with the modern girl’. The following week, PoorClare abbess Mother Mary Paula Smallwood of Baddesley Clinton visited Darlington and also ‘entertained us with stories of the “antics” of modern postulants’. 1 The Modern Girl was a recurrent trope which featured even in religious life. Each generation laid claim to its modernity with a Modern Girl
first at the centre, through international collaborations and ‘special’ or aggiornamento chapters which occurred in 1968 (or thereabouts). The second half of the chapter explores local governance, examining the changing understandings of obedience, the lived experience of participation and the development of smaller communities.
International collaborations were encouraged by the processes of renewal that began in the 1950s with Sponsa Christi . The PoorClares, though residing in autonomous communities, interacted through
, Mary and Dorothy Witham at the convent school, brought by ‘Mr
Robt Witham their Unkle Master of Divinity at Douay, who went from thence to
meet them at Brudges accompanied & brought them to the Monastery’.3 Social
grandstanding could work both ways: the keeper of the college diary at Douai
recorded the arrival of Marmaduke Langdale as a student in 1735, remarking
that he was a relation of the abbess at the Dunkirk PoorClares.4
An equally expected relationship, but on a more institutional level, was the
provision of confessors. A gendered reading of the relationship
Richard Butler, heir to the
Mountgarret estates. Likewise, his links to religious orders on the continent
developed new signiﬁcance as his children entered religious houses. Blundell
frequently corresponded with St Omer and the diﬀerent houses of the PoorClares that his daughters joined, though he developed a particular relationship
with the PoorClares of Rouen, for whom he acted as an agent, disseminating
correspondence, brokering portions for the daughters of local families and
collecting and distributing money on their behalf. However, these activities
were not as
In 1972 Alan Whicker, a British journalist and presenter of the widely watched Whicker’s World , together with his television crew, entered the silent and hidden world of the cloister. 1 As part of a series entitled ‘Whicker, Within a Woman’s World’ he had secured permission to film for a twenty-six-minute programme about the PoorClares, an enclosed Catholic community of nuns, whom he introduced as ‘the most unliberated women in the world’. Pruriently entitled A Girl Gets Temptations , the programme opened evocatively with barefoot young nuns