Politics and religion combined to create discursive styles and textual communities that empowered women in distinctive ways; spirituality offered women special forms of symbolic cultural capital that could be turned to their advantage in influencing mores and raising their own social status. To understand how this model of authority was configured, the project will focus on women’s writing (that is, texts authored or commissioned by women) from the point of view of the degree to which it sought either to copy or to reject reigning discourses of power, and of the models of self-representation which women adopted. This approach will enable us to draw up a balance of successes and failures in their construction of a social and cultural authority, and to speculate on causes and effects. The analysis will embrace practices of reading and writing about women, for women, and by women, insofar as these shaped the rules of play in women’s literature. Based upon a study of the readings and works promoted or consumed by women in the convent, we will consider both models and anti-models, and also the counterpoint of male views as expressed in manuals of behaviour and other texts designed to control, or at least channel, the new modes of authority. To this end the project will enlist the contributions of other disciplines (history, medicine, art, dance, music) capable of enriching our understanding of the texts, and will also consider the continuities of this phenomenon and its reconsideration at the 19th Century.