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Cover

Immodest Acts

The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy

Judith C. Brown

Publication Date - December 1986

ISBN: 9780195042252

224 pages
Paperback

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $19.99

Description

The discovery of the fascinating and richly documented story of Sister Benedetta Carlini, Abbess of the Convent of the Mother of God, by Judith C. Brown was an event of major historical importance. Not only is the story revealed in Immodest Acts that of the rise and fall of a powerful woman in a church community and a record of the life of a religious visionary, it is also the earliest documentation of lesbianism in modern Western history.
Born of well-to-do parents, Benedetta Carlini entered the convent at the age of nine. At twenty-three, she began to have visions of both a religious and erotic nature. Benedetta was elected abbess due largely to these visions, but later aroused suspicions by claiming to have had supernatural contacts with Christ. During the course of an investigation, church authorities not only found that she had faked her visions and stigmata, but uncovered evidence of a lesbian affair with another nun, Bartolomeo. The story of the relationship between the two nuns and of Benedetta's fall from an abbess to an outcast is revealed in surprisingly candid archival documents and retold here with a fine sense of drama.

Reviews

"A rare example of the life of a nonaristocratic woman of the period and...a vivid picture of convent life and the Roman Catholic Church during the upheavals of the Counter-Reformation. Fascinating and highly readable."--The New York Times Book Review "Brown is a wonderful storyteller...[She] delivers a scholarly work that is also a story of tragedy and intrigue."--San Francisco Chronicle

"This is a very well-written and engaging book that explores issues of religion, sexuality and gender."--Professor Cliff Hubby, New York University

"Brown's research and analysis is meticulous, her storytelling compelling, and the documents themselves a treasure....An extraordinary glimpse into the world of a seventeenth-century convent....A fascinating contribution to the women's history and lesbian history literature."--Leila Rupp, Women's Studies Review

"An intensely human and engrossing story, Brown's book is the best book available on the female experience during the Counter-Reformation."--Edward Muir, Louisiana State University

"[Brown's] discussion of the cultural component in Sister Benedetta's visions, their relationship to the religious art and devotional literature of the time, like her analysis of official reactions to the case, make Immodest Acts a serious contribution to ecclesiastical history."--Journal of Ecclesiastical History

"Good history and highly recommended reading."--History: Reviews of New Books

"A fascinating reconstruction of a piece of pre-modern life in its most intimate details, and an invaluable work of history."--The Nation

"A rare example of the life of a nonaristocratic woman of the period and...a vivid picture of convent life and the Roman Catholic Church during the upheavals of the Counter-Reformation. Fascinating and highly readable."--The New York Times Book Review

"A fascinating story of a female mystic in a small town in seventeenth-century Italy. Sister Benedetta's visions are dramas enacted on a stage of convent politics, her sexual expressiveness part of her wider gift of spiritual imagination."--Natalie Zemon Davis, Princeton University

"A vivid, scary, and compelling narrative that will alter the history of women, religion, and sexuality."--Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University

"A book for the general reader, a book already making news."--Publishers Weekly

"Brown is a wonderful storyteller...[She] delivers a scholarly work that is also a story of tragedy and intrigue."--San Francisco Chronicle

"The solid scholarly apparatus with which the author illuminates each of these themes brings historical significance to the life of one long-forgotten seventeenth-century nun. Scholars and students of the history of sexuality and religious life will profit from Brown's recounting and interpretation of the life of Benedetta Carlini."--Religious Studies Review

"Good book!"--Margery A. Ganz, Spelman College