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Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art, and Arson in the Convents of Italy

3.05 of 5 stars 3.05  ·  rating details  ·  40 ratings  ·  14 reviews

Witchcraft. Arson. Going AWOL. Some nuns in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy strayed far from the paradigms of monastic life. Cloistered in convents, subjected to stifling hierarchy, repressed, and occasionally persecuted by their male superiors, these women circumvented authority in sometimes extraordinary ways. But tales of their transgressions have long been bu

Hardcover, 264 pages
Published November 15th 2010 by University Of Chicago Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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Craig Monson’s Nuns Behaving Badly is an unassuming collection of events at five Italian convents spanning the late 16th to the early 18th centuries whose inmates asserted themselves against the severe boundaries that delimited their lives. Despite its title and this picture which graces the back of my edition’s dust jacket –

there’s little that’s salacious. Anyone hoping to read about orgies or demonic rites a la The Monk will be disappointed. In fact, in regards to sex and convents, Monson wri
A feminist microhistory masquerading as something sexy. Which somehow makes it more intriguing? What does it say about our times that the dust jacket of a book about 16th and 17th century nuns in Italy has to show a nun being spanked if it has a hope in hell of selling? Spoiler: no nuns are spanked in this book. It's much better than that.
This book is far better than the title and cheesy cover image let on. It truly is a micro-history. The author is a music historian going through the Vatican archives when he comes across interesting tidbits about nuns and eventually writes this book on some of the more complete histories/stories he could find.

While it does involve nuns who break their vows in one way or another, the book isn't sensationalist or salacious. This title focuses on the history, time period, facts, people, of the tim
Joe Matson
More fun than is usually allowed in a such a well-researched book.
Bryan Taylor
Anyone expecting a scandalous page turner will be sorely disappointed. The author found these tales in the Vatican library while doing musicological research. The scandals are mild by any standard, especially today's, but in the boredom of the Vatican library probably seemed horrid. Examples are calling upon the devil to find a missing violin, burning down a convent to escape, slipping outside of the convent to participate in an opera, or two lesbian nuns who escape the convent together. Anyone ...more
I am, if there is such a thing, a Renaissance convent nerd. This had all the things I love about Renaissance convents: The arts as a means of transcending the cloister, the reality of life (as opposed to Council of Trent edicts, and embroidery. I'm not sure why all the reviewers are disappointed that it wasn't scandalous enough. I mean, these chicks burned down the convent because it was cramping their style.
Jul 02, 2011 Gina marked it as abandoned
Shelves: 2011
I'm just not getting anywhere with this. I think there's a bit of a disconnect between the type of book this is and the way it was marketed. It's very, very academically written with a few odd bits where it starts to feel like a novel. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's not exactly the light reading I was expecting. I may come back to it at some point, because I actually did learn quite a bit.
Steve Wiggins
A little more technical than the cover would seem to imply, this is a fascinating study for an academic readership. It would help to know a bit about Italian history before picking it up, but it has stories of women who didn't always live by the rules. More thoughts at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
Michelle Szetela
Got about a third of the way through. Good book, very interesting, but so dense that unless I had time to spend 45 uninterrupted minutes on a chapter (which had no breaks or ways in which I could put it down between chapters and come back to it without having to start from the beginning of the chapter) to actually finish the chapter, I would lose my place.
Sep 01, 2012 Kay added it
Not all nuns are willing to take the veil--according to this book, many of them (at least in sixteenth-century Italy) were placed there by families who had too many daughters to marry off. So the nuns would resort to arson, presumed witchcraft and other devices to get out of their vows. This is a rollicking read at times.
Charmingly re-written rag from the Vatican Library.
Later: Monson's making light of the nuns' pathetic attempts to enjoy themselves by dabbling in illicit magic is sickening. I'm feeling really claustrophobic.
Very well written, but sort of like reading a text book. It is interesting so far. Still reading the book and it is very interesting. I will finish it, I am determined!
Sarah Harris
Dec 09, 2011 Sarah Harris is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
I'm not sure I'm going to finish this book. I got it for my Mom this year for Mother's Day. It sounds fun but I'm not loving it so far.
Sep 15, 2012 Don rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
They don't behave bad enough to make this book very interesting.
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