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Convent Paradise

The radical Venetian writer Arcangela Tarabotti (1604–1652), compelled against her will to become a nun, is well known for her scathing attacks on patriarchal institutions for forcing women into convents. Convent Paradise (1643), Tarabotti’s first published work, instead invites the reader into the cloister to experience not only the trials of enclosure, but also its spiritual joys. In stark contrast to her other works, Convent Paradise aims to celebrate the religious culture that colored every aspect of Tarabotti’s experience as a seventeenth-century Venetian and a nun. At the same time, this nuanced exploration of monastic life conveys a markedly feminist spirituality. Tarabotti’s meditative portrait of the convent enriches our understanding of her own life and writing, while also providing a window into a spiritual destiny shared by thousands of early modern women.

The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe - The Toronto Series volume 73

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"Meredith Ray and Lynn Westwater have done an excellent job reworking Tarabotti’s labyrinthine, often page-long sentences, skillfully breaking them into readable, truly eloquent English equivalents. The notes supporting the translation are very thoroughly researched, extensive and insightful. The introduction is an indispensable guide to Tarabotti’s account of convent life."

Elissa Weaver, University of Chicago

Table of Contents

Illustrations xvii
Abbreviations xix
Acknowledgments xxi
Introduction 1
The Other Voice 1
Convent Paradise and Convent Life in Seventeenth-Century Venice 2
The Convent of Sant’Anna 9
The Contours of Monastic Life 16
Composing from the Convent 31
Tarabotti’s Literary Works 31
Publishing Convent Paradise: Context and Paratext 34
Reading Convent Paradise 44
In Dialogue with Saint Augustine 44
Style and Rhetoric in Convent Paradise 47
Sources for Convent Paradise 50
Reception and Afterlife 52
Editors’ Note 60
Convent Paradise 65
Paratext: Dedication, Letters, and Poems 67
Soliloquy to God 81
Arcangela Tarabotti to the Reader 111
Book One 115
Book Two 163
Book Three 201
“The Archangel: Idyll” and Other Poems 245
Bibliography 259
Index 277

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