ABSTRACT

This article challenges the view that women's writing in the fifteenth century was simply “naive,” harmless work that was not part of the mainstream. In fact, convent women's narratives and historical house chronicles are in many instances much more politically engaged than has generally been understood. Examined in the context of the fifteenth-century struggle for religious reform in which many were involved, women's writings and book illustrations reveal a kind of polemical reform mentality. This article shows some ways in which these writers' portrayal of themselves diverges from traditional mainstream narratives about women that depict them as victims or pawns in the religious struggles of the day. The nuns' own stories, however, reveal a remarkable degree of political savvy and engagement in which religious women through writing their convent histories and reform accounts found a voice and a way to exercise agency.

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