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Escaped NunsTrue Womanhood and the Campaign Against Convents in Antebellum America$
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Cassandra L. Yacovazzi

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190881009

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190881009.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 20 May 2022

Hidden Dangers

Hidden Dangers

Convent Cellars, City Haunts, and the Rise of Dark-Lantern Politics

(p.85) 5 Hidden Dangers
Escaped Nuns

Cassandra L. Yacovazzi

Oxford University Press

By the late 1840s, a new genre of literature revealed deep concerns with corruption in the growing urban centers. City mysteries exposed a dark underworld of the metropolis, leading readers through smoky saloons, gambling dens, and brothels. More than any other “sin of the city,” urban gothic literature focused on prostitution. The female prostitute embodied the greatest antithesis to the ideal or “true” woman. Anticonvent literature often compared nuns to prostitutes, convents to brothels, priests to seducers, and Mother Superiors to madams. City mysteries mirrored convent narratives in their description of women being seduced into lives of misery and sexual deviance. Both convent narratives and city mysteries promised to unveil a hidden world of sin and debauchery for an eager readership. This chapter compares convent tales and city mysteries, focusing on the nun-prostitute figure and the ways in which this female archetype threatened nineteenth-century female gender norms.

Keywords:   city mysteries, George Foster, George Lippard, prostitution, Ned Buntline, The Beautiful Nun, gothic literature

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