Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  172 ratings  ·  27 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published December 11th 1986 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1985)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Immodest Acts, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Immodest Acts

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers by Lillian FadermanSurpassing the Love of Men by Lillian FadermanTo Believe in Women by Lillian FadermanBoots of Leather, Slippers of Gold by Elizabeth Lapovsky KennedyFor Lesbians Only by Sarah Lucia Hoagland
Lesbian history
16th out of 18 books — 10 voters
Immodest Acts by Judith C. BrownQueer Italia by Gary P. CestaroHey Paesan by Denise Nico Leto Giovanna C...Tender Warriors by Rachel Guido DevriesHow to Sing to a Dago by Rachel Guido Devries
Italian Lesbian Books
1st out of 9 books — 1 voter


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 527)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
John David
In the year 1600, at the tender age of nine, Benedetta Carlini was sent to a nunnery in the small city of Pescia in north-central Italy. What today might be considered cruel and highly unusual was then a way for Benedetta’s somewhat well-to-do parents to provide their daughter with protection. After several years at the nunnery which Brown describes as fairly unremarkable, Benedetta began to have a series of increasingly disturbing visions, including being sexually harassed by demons. Sister Ben...more
J
Immodest Acts, Judith C. Brown's study of Benedetta Carlini, a lesbian nun in 17th century Italy, is interesting and enlightening. A lot of fascinating ideas and concepts come to light while reading the story of a nun who became Abbess of her convent, made claims of holy visions and, all the while, carried on a lesbian affair with fellow nun, Bartolomea Crivelli. The peek into Church politics and the beliefs of the time is frightening but sometimes darkly humorous. More interesting than that is...more
Katie
I read this kind of hoping for some picaresque escapades of a lesbian nun going on adventures around Renaissance Italy, but instead it wound up being a very sad story about a failed mystic who was accused by papal investigators of faking all of her visions and repeatedly raping her cell mate in her convent. Bummer.

Judith Brown's microhistory is a very interesting read on one hand, and it shines some interesting light on a woman who attempted to follow in the mystic tradition of celebrated saint...more
J.H. Everett
In Judith Brown’s Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy, we are introduced to an early seventeenth century nun named Benedetta Carlini. As revealed in a review by Sofia Boesch-Gajano, Brown first became familiar with Carlini while researching Tuscan society, inadvertently coming upon a file dated 1619 - 1623 in the State Archives that described a woman who had supposedly been affected by supernatural/ divine spiritual events. The case spanned several years and two officia...more
Felisa Rosa
One doesn't expect an academic treatise on an early 17th century nunnery to be a quick read. I read Immodest Acts in three sittings, and the author, Judith Brown, doesn't even get around to the smutty parts until the last chapters. The book is a fascinating portrait of Benedetta Carlini, an Italian girl whose backwoods parents pledge her to convent life before her birth and then raise her to believe that she is a gift from god. After taking her vows, Benedetta begins to describe powerful and str...more
Siria
Immodest Acts is subtitled The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy—which, while intriguing and liable to make you pick it up in the bookstore, is unfortunately rather misleading. The majority of this slim book is focused not on the sexuality of Sister Benedetta Carlini, a seventeenth century abbess and mystic from the Tuscan town of Pescia, but rather on her quest for power and recognition as a mystic and her subsequent fall from grace. (Her alleged lesbian affair is discussed in about te...more
Laura
Immodest Acts tells the story of Sister Benedetta Carlini, a nun turned mystic and abbess in the early 17th century. Through investigation into Benedetta's alleged miracles, it is discovered that she has been using her position as a holy mystic and abbess to carry out an affair with another nun in the convent. Brown does a great job of putting the events of Benedetta's life in context (although in my opinion she puts a bit too much context, including much of her analysis of Benedetta's persona a...more
Brent Lambell
This is the kind of book I went back to college to read - it deals with the historical story of a lesbian nun in Renaissance Italy. The story comes to us from the Church's legal investigation, or inquisition, of heresies the nun was accused of committing. It is not a casual read, but for those willing to navigate the scholastic nature of the book it well worth the time.
ONTD Feminism
LJ user 102bb:

The book drags on sometimes, and the prose leaves a lot to be desired, but the sheer amount of information on women's sexuality during the renaissance makes up for it.
Ariel Uppstrom
This book was fascinating! My mother found it at a book sale and picked it up because she knows I do GLBT work at my school and in my community.

The book is a non-fiction exploration of the life of a nun, Benedetta, during the 17th century. Born in 1590, her father promised her to God in order for his wife and child not to die in childbirth. The writer then follows Benedetta's progress through the convent in which she was placed at nine years old! Throughout her time in the convent, she was said...more
Marian
I am not used to reading religious history and am not sure how it is normally handled when dealing with visionaries and miracles. The author seemed to discount the possibility of their accuracy but she also recognized that the reality of them wasn't important but the belief was. But in a sense, she discredits her own narrative - how are we to know if she finds Benedetta to be the villain or the victim of the piece? She doesn't complicate it - saying she is both - she just lets it hang there. We...more
Elizabeth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Wagner
I read this book for a women's history class several years ago and I still think about the book from time to time - a sign of something really sticking with me. In addition to a juicy story, this book presents a detailed depiction of women's lives during this era and also a compelling picture of mysticism, which the central figure of this book corrupts to pursue her own path.
Carrie
This is a good read for those days when you're wavering between a desire for fiction and a desire for history. Sister Benedetta sounds like she was quite a character. The book mostly consists of some Italian Renaissance cultural background and a chronological narrative of Sister Benedetta's life as a "mystic" - you know, receiving the stigmata, Christ physically putting his own heart into her chest, and other such things. The scandalous lesbian affair that she was imprisoned for is only mentione...more
Vaishali
Not a well-researched book, considering it's written by an academic. Skip it.
Shawn
Jun 10, 2014 Shawn added it
An intersting tale of an interesting time for women.
Brian
Great book. I loved Brown's generous interpretation of events, and lively portrayal and background. Benedetta Carlini's story is fascinating and really opens up a new and interesting world I'm sure of which many are unaware.
Danika at The Lesbrary
The title is a little sensationalist: the same-sex relationship doesn't come up until near the end of the book, and it's not exactly "lesbian" (the nun has at least one other heterosexual relationship, and claims to be a male angel during the "lesbian" relationship). Still, an interesting read with lots of historical context. But it is more about a discredited mystic than it is about a lesbian. (More in depth review to come at the
Alaina
This is billed as the story of a Lesbian nun, but really it's more a legal-case-study. It's a short read, interesting for the extraordinary look at convent life in Renaissance Italy.
Olga
aaaand this was my favorite book in 8th grade, last year of Catholic School
Amber
Read it for a history class, but found it pretty interesting.
Jodi
Lesbian nuns? Wha? Who woulda thunk it?
Morey
Crazy whore, good read.
svnh
Nov 26, 2008 svnh marked it as to-read
with a title like that...
Carmen Casanova
Aug 31, 2007 Carmen Casanova rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who's interested w the topics: history, religion, lesbian, myths
Shelves: lesbians
a rich-source book
A.
Jan 18, 2010 A. marked it as to-read
MC
Joe
Joe marked it as to-read
Sep 12, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 17 18 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
  • Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century
  • An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures
  • A Restricted Country
  • Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present
  • The Body & Society: Men, Women & Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity
  • Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature
  • Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women
  • Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England
  • Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two
  • Alone of All Her Sex
  • Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past
  • Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present
  • Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community
  • Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church
  • Witches and Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft
  • Against Equality: Queer Critiques of Gay Marriage
  • My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home
Gender and Society in Renaissance Italy In the Shadow of Florence: Provincial Society in Renaissance Pescia

Share This Book

“Az ő korában, akárcsak a miénkben, az érzelmeket jelentéssel ruházták fel, de míg a huszadik században az érzelmeket a tapasztalás eredményének, a külső események végső, lelki termékének tekintjük, a tizenhetedik században ezek önmagukban jelentettek tapasztalást; az érzelmek adtak értelmet és formát a történéseknek, és ezek igazolták az erkölcsi igazságokat.” 0 likes
More quotes…