IMEMS Fellowship: Mysticism among the English Poor Clares

I am delighted to be joining Durham University as an IMEMS Library Fellow in April and May. During my time there I will be researching a project entitled ‘Mysticism among the English Poor Clares, 1580-1680’.

The project will engage with the remains of the library of English Poor Clares, first donated to Durham in 2007.  It will explore the devotional and mystical works preserved in the collection, focusing especially on print and manuscript material from the seventeenth century. While much scholarly work has focused on the mysticism of contemporary monastic communities of Benedictines and Carmelites in the seventeenth century, little attention has been given to the works read and produced by the communities of English Poor Clares.
Fresco of Saint Clare and nuns of her Order

The project proposes that the Poor Clares represent a unique case among female monastic communities, with their library containing works of spiritual direction by Benedictine, Carmelite, Jesuit and Augustinian confessors and authors. Exploring the contents of the collection, as well as the ownership marks and marginalia of individual works, will reveal the richly diverse spirituality of the nuns. It will also shed new light on the interconnected nature of spiritual direction in the seventeenth century, with the Durham collection suggesting devotional material initially directed towards one community of nuns quickly transcended such confines and found popularity with secondary audiences in other convents.

Material gathered at Durham will inform a journal article on mysticism in early modern convents. I am also hoping it will inform a British Academy Small Research Grant in the near future. I am incredibly grateful to Durham for awarding me such a prestigious fellowship and look forward to a month of detailed research in their libraries!