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14. Intellectual Horizons: Letters from a Northern German Convent

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Chapter Summary

The role of monasteries as religious, cultural, and intellectual centres in medieval society has long been recognized. For nunneries, however, the strictly enclosed life led by women renders the extent to which they could participate in, or even shape, the intellectual life of their era less apparent. The intensive correspondence of the nuns at Lüne must be seen within the context of a lively tradition of writing and composition in which, even when the texts were intended for their own community, the women had gained considerable practice in the reflection of their own daily lives and in literary expression. The allegorical understanding of and ability to interpret both sacred and secular daily life shaped the nuns' thought and linguistic expression. The complex, layered meanings present in the nuns' allegorical language enabled them to express the transcendental level of their existence and activities as well as to refer to actual events.

Keywords: intellectual life; medieval society; nuns' allegorical language

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