Call for Contributions: Communication, Consolidation, and Change: Epistolary Cultures and the Medieval Cloister (Sanctimoniales 3)

Call for contributions:

Communication, Consolidation, and Change: Epistolary Cultures and the Medieval Cloister (Sanctimoniales 3)

This volume will examine letters in the cloister, from the cloister, and about the cloister in the context of medieval and early modern female religious communities. The aim is to explore the ways in which letters create, consolidate, and change social and spiritual relationships, thus undermining (or reinforcing) the strict requirements of active and passive enclosure. While other forms of communication (eg personal visits and conversations at talking-windows) took place at the boundaries of the enclosure, letters sent or received could penetrate monastery walls and escape the control of others, possibly  through private reading.

We particularly welcome contributions that explore the following four thematic constellations:

Presence and absence: How and in what contexts did religious women and lay people write about the cloister? How did cloistered women use letters to make themselves present in the world? What rhetorical strategies did both senders and recipients deploy to overcome obstacles to social participation?

Proximity and distance: How were letters (either singly or in more extensive epistolary exchanges) used to create personal relationships between writers and receivers? How could letters convey emotion? What can letters reveal about the economic side of women’s religious communities through references to gifts and (sales) purchases of other objects. What light can letters shed on the exchange of material goods between the monastery and the world?

Conflict: How did letters function as a means of conflict resolution either within or beyond the enclosure? What potential did letters themselves present for creating unrest, for example, when internal conflicts within a community were communicated to individuals beyond the enclosure, or when the response to epistolary reports of economic or social situations outside the monastery divided a community?

Education and epistolary culture: What can letters reveal about proficiency in writing and level of education? To what extent did medieval and early modern religious women participate in the epistolary culture of their time? Is the history of early humanism in the monastery a male history; did humanism stop at the walls of women’s religious communities?

Communication, Consolidation, and Change: Epistolary Cultures of the Medieval Cloister will be edited by Alison I. Beach, Anne Diekjobst, and Agnes Schormann for Sanctimoniales: Religious Women – Geistliche Frauen, a series published by Brepols. Sanctimoniales aims to present a full range of research on religious women in the European Middle Ages and early modern period. One of the main goals of the series is to promote academic exchange between German- and English-speaking researchers. We thus seek contributions that reflect diverse research traditions and methodological approaches, and we welcome contributions that explore the social, economic, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions of life in medieval women’s religious communities.

The deadline for short abstracts is 1 December 2020. For submissions or for further information, please contact Alison Beach (aib4 (at), Anne Diekjobst (adiekjobst (at), or Agnes Schormann (agnes.schormann (at)

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