Subversive Habits: The Study of Nuns from the Sixth Century to the Early Modern Era


  • Sarah E. Wolfe


Through examining Boniface’s correspondence with female friends of his
circle, a vita of Saint Radegund, an anonymous medieval story of a pregnant
abbess, the tale of Chaucer’s Prioress, and Marlowe’s play The Jew of Malta, I
seek to uncover nun’s “real selves” in contrast to their often-uncomplimentary
portrayals in medieval and early modern literature. The vivid and diverse
literature nuns composed or the works that were written about them reveals
how they saw themselves or were perceived by others. Because these women’s
creative and intellectual abilities add richness and multilayered perspectives
to the realm of medieval literature, their importance and visibility are vital to
study, reflect, and discuss to a comprehensive audience of both laypersons
and specialists.