This book challenges the stereotypes that have trivialized and sentimentalized the cinematic nun by examining how iconic movie stars injected a complicated history of desire into their film performances as nuns. It expands the ways film nuns are viewed by connecting them to the larger religious, cultural, and feminist histories that have charted the development and representation of Catholic and Anglican sisterhoods from the late nineteenth through to the end of the twentieth century. It probes the veiled desires that the film nun may conceal or momentarily reveal by setting out the conflict between two different constructs: eros, the core longings Audre Lorde charged modern women to recognize and develop, and agape, the altruistic and exalted understanding of Christian love that called women religious to service and sacrifice. It uses psychoanalytic theory to further decipher the language of desire that nuns express on-screen and that was generally fashioned for them by male directors and scriptwriters.
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