The Introduction maps the landscape of the early modern English convents in exile, and situates the literature of the nuns of St Monica’s and Nazareth within a broader history of monastic literature and culture, medieval to modern, with emphasis on the period shortly after the Reformation, through to the late eighteenth century. The case studies at the heart of the subsequent five chapters are briefly outlined, and reveal a broad range of literary styles and motifs spanning epistolary, chorographical, confessional, and devotional expression, by anonymous as well as named authors. This section introduces the concepts of anonymous and subsumed autobiography, which trouble the still well established, if deeply contested, definitions of autobiography propounded by Philippe Lejeune. These new genres are informed by scholarship of the late twentieth and twenty-first century, devoted to the subjects of women’s writing, and autobiography, self- or life-writing.
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