Evangelisti, Silvia

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Evangelisti, Silvia




Office—University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, England. E-mail—[email protected].


University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, lecturer.


(With Renato Barilli and Bruno Passamani) Romolo Romani, Mazzotta (Milan, Italy), 1982.

(With Renato Barilli and Paola Marescalchi) Renato Barilli, editor, Gino Severini (exhibit catalog) Electa Firenze (Florence, Italy), 1983.

(With Paola Marescalchi and Marzio Pinottini) Silvia Evangelisti, editor, Fillia E L'avanguardia Futurista Negli Anni del Fascismo, A. Mondadori/P. Daverio (Milan, Italy), 1986.

(Editor, with Concetto Pozzati) Disegnata: Percorsi del Disegno Italiano dal 1945 ad Oggi, Edizioni Essegi (Ravenna, Italy), 1987.

(Editor) Mario Pozzati, 1888-1947, Nuova Alfa (Bologna, Italy), 1987.

(Editor, with Adriano Baccilieri and others) L'Accademia di Bologna: Figure del Novecento: Bologna, Accademia di Belle Arti, 5 Settembre-10 Novembre 1988, Nuova Alfa (Bologna, Italy), 1988.

(Editor) La Pinacoteca Civica di Pieve di Cento: Collezioni Comunali Del Novecento: Catalogo Generale, Nuova Alfa (Bologna, Italy), 1989.

(Editor) Aldo Bandinelli (1897-1977), Nuova Alfa (Bologna, Italy), 1989.

(With Martina Corgnati and Claudio Cerritelli) Bargoni, Guarneri, Satta, Essegi (Ravenna, Italy), 1991.

(With Pier Giovanni Castagnoli and Flaminio Gualdoni) Concetto Pozzati: Antologica, Nuova Alfa (Bologna, Italy), 1991.

Concetto Pozzati, Essegi (Ravenna, Italy), 1993.

Italiens de Paris: Campigli, De Chirico, De Pisis, Savinio, Tozzi, Severini, Magnelli, Grafis (Bologna, Italy), 1994.

Nuns: A History of Convent Life, 1450-1700, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2007.

(Editor, with Sandra Cavallo) Domestic and Institutional Interiors in Early Modern Europe, Ashgate, 2007.


Historian Silvia Evangelisti has written several works on early modern gender issues, culture, and religious history. Her first work published in English is Nuns: A History of Convent Life, 1450-1700. As many reviewers pointed out, the book dismisses popular culture's simplistic stereotypes of nuns and provides instead a scrupulously researched account of what convent life entailed and how it evolved. As Evangelisti shows, women entered convents for many different reasons, and they experienced their lives there in surprisingly diverse ways.

For many women in early modern Europe, the convent was an attractive choice. It offered the only socially acceptable alternative to marriage; for wealthy families it was a convenient way to settle "surplus" daughters or those born out of wedlock. As reviewer Sister Rosemary wrote in Watch Women, wealthy families who used this option tended to consider the convent "an extension of the family home." Their daughters could enjoy a privileged life there, free from the demands of a husband or the dangers of childbirth and could devote themselves to the study of literature, music, and art. For poor women, however, religious life was more physically arduous, for nuns from humble families were expected to perform the convent's manual labor. "The class distinctions of the world," commented Sister Rosemary, "were reproduced in the cloister."

Evangelisti details the movement to enclose convents during the Counter-Reformation, when reformist bishops decreed that nuns—because of their supposed frailty of mind and character—should be wholly submissive to male superiors. While some nuns welcomed this development as one that ensured their physical safety and privacy, others resisted. They found ways to nourish their inner lives by writing poetry, plays, and spiritual autobiographies, singing choir music, and painting portraits and frescoes. Some, like Mexican nun Sor Ines de la Cruz, wrote what many consider to be among the most impressive early feminist treatises. It was not until religious women began to form different types of communities, however, that nuns achieved their wish to serve in society as teachers, nurses, and missionaries. It was a development that, up until the twentieth century, led to a huge increase in the numbers of women joining religious orders.

Joan Bakewell, writing in the London Times, considered Nuns a "fascinating book" about the Catholic Church's efforts to control women, as well as about the determination of these women to "live full and fruitful lives within such punishing restraints." The book, she continued, is "a powerful record and a fine contribution to the history of women." A reviewer for the Economist, however, felt that the book fails to illuminate the nuns' inner lives. Evangelisti, according to this critic, "likes the social, political and cultural whirl; but it was the sealed quiet of the cell that made the real world of these women, and the reader is hardly ever there." New Statesman contributor Jonathan Wright, by contrast, found Evangelisti's accounts of individual nuns both respectful and poignant.



America, July 30, 2007, E. Ann Matter, "Behind the Walls," p. 25.

Economist, February 17, 2007, "Veiled Ambitions; the Secret Life of Nuns," p. 85.

Library Journal, May 15, 2007, Jennifer Kuncken, review of Nuns: A History of Convent Life, 1450-1700, p. 96.

New Statesman, March 12, 2007, Jonathan Wright, "Men Beware Women," p. 55.

Publishers Weekly, March 26, 2007, review of Nuns, p. 87.

Times (London, England), February 25, 2007, Joan Bakewell, "Within These Walls."

Times Higher Education Supplement, March 9, 2007, "Sisters behind the Grille," p. 21.


Art Facts,http://www.artfacts.net/ (February 11, 2008), "Interview with Silvia Evangelisti, Director of Arte Fiera Art First 2007."

University of East Anglia Web site,http://www1.uea.ac.uk/ (January 29, 2008), Silvia Evangelisti faculty profile.

Watch Women,http://www.watchwomen.com/ (January 29, 2008), Sister Rosemary, review of Nuns.

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