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Behind the Walls: Creativity, Visions and Horrors in Renaissance Italian Convents Sarah Dunant Tuesday 19 February 2019

By the middle of the 16th Century dowries in Italy were so expensive that most respectable families could not afford to marry off more than one or two daughters. The rest became nuns, entering convents at puberty and never leaving. Not surprisingly not all of them went willingly. But along with stories of enforced incarceration and horror, there was also unexpected space for creativity; art. scholarship, writing, drama and music. There was also the possibility of another kind of fulfilment and power – that of ecstatic union with the spiritual husband, Jesus Christ. Behind those walls a great deal was going on.

Novelist, broadcaster and critic, Sarah Dunant read History at Cambridge, then worked for many years as a cultural journalist in radio and television in such programmes as Kaleidoscope (Radio 4), The Late Show (BBC 2) and Night Waves (BBC Radio 3). She has published 13 novels, taught Renaissance studies at Washington University, St Louis and is a visiting tutor on the MA creative writing course at Oxford Brookes. Her next novel, In the Name of the Family, completes the story of the Borgia family and the remarkable period of Italian history in which they lived.