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This study of English Benedictine nuns is based upon a wide variety of original manuscripts, including chronicles, death notices, clerical instructions, texts of spiritual guidance, but also the nuns' own collections of notes. It highlights the tensions between the contemplative ideal and the nuns' personal experiences, illustrating the tensions between theory and practice in the ideal of being dead to the world. It shows how Benedictine convents were both cut-off and enclosed yet very much in touch with the religious and political developments at home, but also proposes a different approach to the history of nuns, with a study of emotions and the senses in the cloister, delving into the textual analysis of the nuns' personal and communal documents to explore aspect of a lived spirituality, when the body which so often hindered the spirit, at times enabled spiritual experience.