Dancing, Didactics, and Doctrine: New Evidence of Early Modern Cross-Cultural Transfer via English Convent Schools

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper explores music and dance education (focusing on the latter) for early modern English girls at English convent schools, both those in exile on the continent and those acting covertly in England. It combines evidence from the presenter’s recently completed doctoral dissertation with new evidence uncovered during the presenter’s visiting fellowship at the Bodleian Library (Oxford), undertaken from September to December 2023.

The paper will consider how late 17th-century English convents facilitated the transfer across geographic borders not only of certain repertoire, but also social ideologies, particularly French notions of music and dance as a way of displaying grace, breeding, and rank. It will reveal how English convent schools engaged with French ideologies of civility as embodied through music and dance, and in turn, how they engaged with ideologies of civility as interlinked with notions of Catholic white femininity. This will open questions as to how dance education at English convent schools enabled early modern English Catholic girls to perform what Olivia Bloechl has termed ‘aristocratic femininity’ either through ‘the absence of blackness’, or by donning the mask of an exoticised other. Finally, this paper will ask what influence this education had on the emergent salon cultures in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England, particularly attempts to recreate précieuse cultures. In asking these questions, the paper will highlight new evidence from the Mapledurham House archive and from within the Blount music collection that offers insight as to how education in music and dance at English convent schools shaped pupils’ activities as adults.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 6 Apr 2024
EventSociety for Seventeenth Century Music: Annual Meeting - Princeton University, Princeton, United States
Duration: 4 Apr 20247 Apr 2024


ConferenceSociety for Seventeenth Century Music
Country/TerritoryUnited States

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