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This article examines the functional nature of English Benedictine poetry in order to understand the bespoke literary systems that flourished within convent settings. Even as form has emerged as a primary concern within scholarship on early modern women writers, so too are literary critics starting to show interest in the early modern convent as a site of literary production. Uniting these two scholarly strands, this article explores the formal implications of texts written by and for the six English Benedictine convents founded on the Continent during the early modern period. This analysis of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Benedictine poetics reveals that English cloisters on the Continent actively cultivated alternative approaches to textual production, developing monastic modes at odds with the secular literary system of the time. Poetry provides an ideal case study for this discussion of convent style due to its relatively high status among literary forms. By considering Benedictine theories of speech as well as the formal qualities of the verse that nuns read and wrote, this essay will outline how the English Benedictine convents on the Continent developed a distinctive literary system that rejected secular modes in favour of a poetics aligned with monastic humility.
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