Mise en texte and Communities: Writing the Convent, Writing the Self
This session will explore the building of common narratives through the study of the texts of the English convents exiled on the Continent; whilst they sought to publicize the shared values and opinions of religious Catholic communities, conventual founding texts such as autobiographies, biographies and chronicles bore the distinctive trace of the person who had shaped them.
Please join us for our online session on Mise en texte, with guest speakers Jaime Goodrich (Wayne State University) and Victoria Van Hyning (University of Maryland), on Monday 24 January 2022, 16.30 to 18.30 (GMT+1, Paris time.)
Jaime Goodrich, “Mise en texte in early modern English Benedictine convents”
This talk will present an introduction to mise en texte within the setting of the English Benedictine convents founded on the Continent during the 17th century. As a brief opening discussion of mise en texte in the genres of statutes and chapter speeches will demonstrate, this phenomenon was essential to textual production within the convent setting since generations nuns rewrote the texts of their monastic predecessors for new purposes. The remainder of the talk will focus on the role of mise en texte in Abbess Anne Neville’s comparative history of English Benedictine convents, entitled The beginning of the Congregation of the english Benedictin Dames (c. 1672-89). The most complex and comprehensive piece of historical writing to survive from the English Benedictine convents, Neville’s account has served as an important source of historical information for historians and literary scholars. Yet it also deserves consideration as a literary text, particularly for the way that Neville weaves together various sources, most notably letters from Abbess Mary Vavasour of the Brussels Benedictines. Through an examination of the way that Neville incorporates these sources, I will show how she used mise en texte to construct an authorial persona in keeping with the primary Benedictine value of humility.
Victoria Van Hyning, “Mise en Texte in the Conversion Narrative of Catherine Holland”
This talk will focus on the autobiographical conversion narrative of the Augustinian nun, Catherine Holland, who was the daughter of a Protestant father and a Catholic mother. Holland ran away from home in order to join the Nazareth convent in Bruges. She wrote her autobiography shortly after becoming a nun. The text was written in order to articulate her commitment to her new chosen life, and to signal her belonging in her community. Holland drew on Augustine’s Confessions when she wrote her own autobiography. Confessions is one of the most important autobiographical works ever written, and was of course particularly important for an Augustinian nun. Protestants and Catholics in the early modern period regularly disputed ownership of the Church Fathers (Augustine among them), and accused one another of falsely claiming theological lineage to these important thinkers and writers. As a result, so much early modern literature is filled with polemical arguments about these writers, and it was common for people on most sides of the argument to deploy certain ideas, textual passages, and sayings to signal their understanding of these issues, and thus their belonging within a particular religious community. Mise en texte in these cases was about belonging. Catherine Holland’s text is a valuable example of mise en texte many times over. It reveals how her reading practices shaped her autobiographical impulses, while the physical manuscript itself reveals how later generations of nuns kept reading and interacting with the narrative.
Jaime Goodrich is Professor of English at Wayne State University. She specializes in early modern literature, with a particular focus on early modern women writers and religion, especially Catholicism. Her first monograph analyzed early modern Englishwomen’s devotional translations (Faithful Translators: Authorship, Gender, and Religion in Early Modern England, 2014), and her second monograph discusses the philosophical implications of spiritual texts written by English Benedictine nuns (Writing Habits: Historicism, Philosophy, and English Benedictine Convents, 1600-1800, 2021). In collaboration with Laurence Lux-Sterritt, she is currently finishing an edition of documents related to spiritual quarrels among the Brussels Benedictines during the 17th century.
Victoria Van Hyning is an assistant professor of Library Innovation at the College of Information Studies (iSchool) at the University of Maryland, College Park, where teaches subjects related to archives, crowdsourcing, librarianship, outreach, engagement, inclusivity, and design. She has a background in medieval and early modern English literature, and much of her work is concerned with women’s writing and the material contexts of literary production. She has published several articles on early modern Catholic culture, and her first book, Convent Autobiography: Early Modern English Nuns in Exile was published by OUP in 2019. In addition to her literary work she researches and creates crowdsourcing projects that invite members of the public to learn about primary source documents and transcribe them for research and cultural heritage institutions. She joined the UMD iSchool in 2020 after two years at the Library of Congress where she worked with a team to design and launch the crowdsourcing transcription project By the People (crowd.loc.gov). Previously, she worked with Zooniverse.org in Oxford as a Digital Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow (2014-2015) and Humanities PI (2015-2018), leading the development of several humanities projects including AnnoTate, Shakespeare’s World, and Science Gossip.