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The Habit
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About the Author

Elizabeth Kuhns writes on Catholic traditions for a variety of publications. She is a regular contributor to Faith & Family: The Magazine of Catholic Living, and has previously worked for the Book-of-the-Month Club and the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

Reviews

Even though relatively few Catholic nuns actually wear the distinctive uniforms today, the habit still fascinates and disconcerts Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This "wearable sacramental" sums up much about Catholic spirituality and history, and Kuhns does a workmanlike job of taking readers back to the habit's early origins, through its myriad medieval variations and up to its conflicted present. Along the way we are reminded of the many roles that religious women have played in the development of Catholicism and of Western society, roles that were reflected in the clothing they wore, from peasant simplicity to elaborate creations of silk. Kuhns pays particular attention to the complex interplay between social class and the life of the cloister-different orders drew their membership from distinct social strata. Unfortunately, aside from a deftly written introductory chapter that examines the habit's contemporary fascination, much of the book sorts dutifully through too much history, without a clear story line to keep the reader's interest. One also wishes for a greater variety of illustrations than a single appendix consisting of 1950s-era photographs of habits from a variety of orders. Kuhns is strangely neutral on the question, still hotly debated, of whether the habit is a liberating or oppressive force today. This inconclusive conclusion is something of a letdown in a book about Christianity's most dramatic and durable fashion statement. (Sept. 16) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Focusing on the impact and meaning of religious dress of nuns and sisters for nearly 2000 years, Catholic convert and writer Kuhns, who contributes regularly to Faith & Family: The Magazine of Catholic Living, covers a wide range of women's communities through extensive personal interviews and creditable research using primary and secondary sources. This is the first book in English to survey such garb, along with its political, social, and cultural implications. The paradoxes of this clothing continue to the present day: to some it either suppresses or empowers, separates or attracts, draws ridicule or admiration. The author evenhandedly offers historical context and careful explanations for the evolution of dress that, according to current canon law, remains a sign of consecration and a witness to poverty. While abandoning distinctive attire after Vatican II brought pain to many, communities experiencing the most growth today continue wearing modified habits. Photographs of traditional habits, a somewhat unnecessary glossary, and an extensive bibliography are included. This readable overview is recommended for public and academic libraries.-Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

..".Kuhns does a workman-like job of taking readers back to the habit's early origins, through its myriad medieval variations and up to its conflicted present." --Publisher's Weekly "The author evenhandedly offers historical context and careful explanations . . . This readable overview is recommended for public and academic libraries." --Library Journal "A revelatory work that 'opens the nun's closet doors for the first time, ' then scans the contents for all their historical and symbolic associations." --Kirkus Reviews ..".the door to the sister's closet has swung open..." --Buffalo News ..".Elizabeth Kuhns' book about the history and culture of the habit is a sheer delight, wonderfully informative...." --The Catholic Review "An original, informative and engaging work...." --The Catholic Advocate "Fascinating details fill the book...." --Our Sunday Visitor "A welcome and important contribution to the literature on a sensitive subject that often inspires more heat than light." --Margaret Susan Thompson, Professor of History, Syracuse University "Elizabeth Kuhns' readable account chronicles the development of the habit, while pointing to the important witness of the veil in the future.... Bravo." --Raymond Arroyo, News Director, EWTNews From the Hardcover edition. " Kuhns does a workman-like job of taking readers back to the habit's early origins, through its myriad medieval variations and up to its conflicted present." --Publisher s Weekly "The author evenhandedly offers historical context and careful explanations . . . This readable overview is recommended for public and academic libraries." --Library Journal "A revelatory work that 'opens the nun s closet doors for the first time, ' then scans the contents for all their historical and symbolic associations." --Kirkus Reviews " the door to the sister's closet has swung open..." --Buffalo News " Elizabeth Kuhns' book about the history and culture of the habit is a sheer delight, wonderfully informative ." --The Catholic Review "An original, informative and engaging work ." --The Catholic Advocate "Fascinating details fill the book ." --Our Sunday Visitor "A welcome and important contribution to the literature on a sensitive subject that often inspires more heat than light." --Margaret Susan Thompson, Professor of History, Syracuse University "Elizabeth Kuhns readable account chronicles the development of the habit, while pointing to the important witness of the veil in the future.... Bravo." --Raymond Arroyo, News Director, EWTNews From the Hardcover edition." ."..Kuhns does a workman-like job of taking readers back to the habit's early origins, through its myriad medieval variations and up to its conflicted present." --Publisher's Weekly"The author evenhandedly offers historical context and careful explanations . . . This readable overview is recommended for public and academic libraries." --Library Journal"A revelatory work that 'opens the nun's closet doors for the first time, ' then scans the contents for all their historical and symbolic associations." --Kirkus Reviews."..the door to the sister's closet has swung open..." --Buffalo News."..Elizabeth Kuhns' book about the history and culture of the habit is a sheer delight, wonderfully informative...." --The Catholic Review"An original, informative and engaging work...." --The Catholic Advocate"Fascinating details fill the book...." --Our Sunday Visitor"A welcome and important contribution to the literature on a sensitive subject that often inspires more heat than light." --Margaret Susan Thompson, Professor of History, Syracuse University"Elizabeth Kuhns' readable account chronicles the development of the habit, while pointing to the important witness of the veil in the future.... Bravo." --Raymond Arroyo, News Director, EWTNews"From the Hardcover edition." .,."Kuhns does a workman-like job of taking readers back to the habit's early origins, through its myriad medieval variations and up to its conflicted present." --Publisher's Weekly "The author evenhandedly offers historical context and careful explanations . . . This readable overview is recommended for public and academic libraries." --Library Journal "A revelatory work that 'opens the nun's closet doors for the first time, ' then scans the contents for all their historical and symbolic associations." --Kirkus Reviews .,."the door to the sister's closet has swung open..." --Buffalo News .,."Elizabeth Kuhns' book about the history and culture of the habit is a sheer delight, wonderfully informative...." --The Catholic Review "An original, informative and engaging work...." --The Catholic Advocate "Fascinating details fill the book...." --Our Sunday Visitor "A welcome and important contribution to the literature on a sensitive subject that often inspires more heat than light." --Margaret Susan Thompson, Professor of History, Syracuse University "Elizabeth Kuhns' readable account chronicles the development of the habit, while pointing to the important witness of the veil in the future.... Bravo." --Raymond Arroyo, News Director, EWTNews "From the Hardcover edition." ..."Kuhns does a workman-like job of taking readers back to the habit's early origins, through its myriad medieval variations and up to its conflicted present." --Publisher's Weekly "The author evenhandedly offers historical context and careful explanations . . . This readable overview is recommended for public and academic libraries." --Library Journal "A revelatory work that 'opens the nun's closet doors for the first time, ' then scans the contents for all their historical and symbolic associations." --Kirkus Reviews ..."the door to the sister's closet has swung open..." --Buffalo News ..."Elizabeth Kuhns' book about the history and culture of the habit is a sheer delight, wonderfully informative...." --The Catholic Review "An original, informative and engaging work...." --The Catholic Advocate "Fascinating details fill the book...." --Our Sunday Visitor "A welcome and important contribution to the literature on a sensitive subject that often inspires more heat than light." --Margaret Susan Thompson, Professor of History, Syracuse University "Elizabeth Kuhns' readable account chronicles the development of the habit, while pointing to the important witness of the veil in the future.... Bravo." --Raymond Arroyo, News Director, EWTNews "From the Hardcover edition.

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