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Oral history, collective memory, and community among cloistered nuns | OUPblog

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Oral history, collective memory, and community among cloistered nuns

This week, managing editor Troy Reeves speaks with scholar and artist Abbie Reese about her recently published book, Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns. Through an exquisite blend of oral and visual narratives, Reese shares the stories of the Poor Clare Colettine Order, a multigenerational group of cloistered contemplative nuns living in Rockford, Illinois. Among other issues, Reese’s photographs and interviews raise valuable questions about collective memory formation and community building in a space marked by anonymity and silence.

A metal grille is the literal and symbolic separation and reflection of the nuns' vow of enclosure. The Poor Clare Colettine nuns film Abbie Reese, in this screenshot, for a collaborative ethnographic documentary film in-progress by Abbie and the nuns. Courtesy of Abbie Reese.
A metal grille is the literal and symbolic separation and reflection of the nuns’ vow of enclosure. The Poor Clare Colettine nuns film Abbie Reese for a collaborative ethnographic documentary. Courtesy of Abbie Reese.

In her interview with Troy, Reese talks about how popular culture sparked her interest in nuns and what it was like to work with the real women of the Poor Clare Colettine Order. Reese also discusses how she came to incorporate oral history into her work as a visual artist and her next, upcoming project.

Reese was also kind enough to share an excerpt from an interview with Sister Mary Nicolette. When sending the clip, Reese noted, “Her voice is hoarse from the interview because the nuns observe monastic silence, speaking only what is necessary to complete a task.”

You can see and hear more from the Poor Clare Colettine Order at Reese’s online exhibit Erased from the Landscape: The Hidden Lives of Cloistered Nuns.

Recent Comments

  1. […] Oxford University Press lets us peer into the world of cloistered nuns through Abbie Reese’s book Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns. This post features an interview between Reese and managing editor Troy Reeves about this visual and oral narrative. There’s also a bonus clip from Reese’s conversation with Sister Mary Nicolette! […]

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