Photo of Tanyss Sharp

Tanyss Sharp

Candidate, M.A. History

Degrees:B.A. Hons. History (Carleton)

Current Program (including year of entry): M.A. History (2018)


Prof. Paul Nelles and Prof. Susan Whitney

Academic Interests:

Early modern Europe; women’s and gender history; English nuns and convent identity; religion

Teaching Experience:

Early Modern Europe, 1350-1630 (C. Masemann), Fall 2018

Description of Research:

My research examines how religious women, as English-born Catholics in exile, navigated the changing nature of conventual life following the Council of Trent. In 1563 the Council of Trent implemented reform targeting religious women – clausura (strict enclosure) in all convents. Enclosure not only controlled female mobility but it also aimed to redefine the social and religious roles that nuns occupied. At this time, Catholicism in England had been declared illegal and convents and monasteries dissolved. As a result, many English nuns went into exile. Over 3000 women travelled to the continent and established 22 distinct religious houses. By keeping woman physically confined enclosure sought to ensure that religious women had no contact with the outside world. However, a closer look at the implementation of Tridentine reform shows that enclosure was consistently negotiated and challenged by religious women. Focus on religious women’s responses to the boundaries of strict enclosure reveals that although physically restricted nuns could not be completely cut off from the outside world. Nuns exerted considerable influence on communities on the continent and in England. Existing in a liminal, nonthreatening space, English nuns were able to negotiate religious life in new ways.