Runaway nuns, runaway bestsellers: Representations of gender and class in antebellum convent captivity narratives and fictions
This study explores antebellum convent captivity tales—narratives and fictions about Protestant women who are trapped in Catholic convents, undergo months or years of rigorous and often bizarre treatment, and emerge from their captivity to proclaim the evils of Catholicism. During the 1830s, George Bourne's Lorette (1833), Rebecca Reed's Six Months in a Convent (1835), and Maria Monk's The Awful Disclosures (1836), which ultimately sold over three hundred thousand copies, were among the best-selling books of the decade. Many other would-be “escaped nuns” penned graphic accounts of forced incarceration and sexual abuse, and the theme of convent captivity became a popular one for fiction writers throughout the antebellum period. This study argues that convent captivity narratives are an important and valuable genre whose intersections with other popular discourses suggest intriguing confrontations with questions of class and gender in antebellum America. While previous studies have provided some valuable insights, they have constructed misleading parameters of the genre. Arguing for a more fluid conception of the genre's boundaries, this study ultimately seeks to recover an informed sense of what was at stake for contemporaneous readers of these narratives and fictions. ^
John J Regan,
"Runaway nuns, runaway bestsellers: Representations of gender and class in antebellum convent captivity narratives and fictions"
Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access).