The Enclosed Renaissance: Intellectual and Spiritual Learning in Early Modern Venetian ConventsPublic Deposited
Convent education was financially accessible to many girls whose families could not afford a private tutor and nuns were the largest group of educated, culturally-active women in pre-modern Europe. Convent education mirrored the general contours of humanist education by associating learning with morality, serving the purposes of the Venetian republic, and providing an education relevant to the class and social positions of the students. But convent education also differed in fundamental ways from other sources of education because it allowed lifelong intellectual exploration within a community of women. Convents valued reading and writing as ways to develop the intellect and the spirit simultaneously, while also sometimes allowing creative expression through theater. As a result, women could pursue intellectual enrichment throughout their lives and some used the opportunity to advance feminist arguments. Former convent students, both nuns and married women, used their knowledge to educate other women, argue for the spiritual and intellectual equality of women, and correspond with prominent thinkers of the time.