Corwin, “Let Him Hold You”

Corwin, Anna. 2012. Let Him Hold You: Spiritual and Social Support in a Catholic Convent Infirmary. Anthropology of Aging Quarterly 33(4): 212-230.

Abstract: American Catholic nuns have been found to age more ‘successfully’ than their lay counterparts, living longer, healthier, and happier lives. Two of the key factors contributing to the nuns’ physical and mental wellbeing are the spiritual support they experience from the divine and the social support they provide for and receive from each other in the convent. I argue that by integrating the divine into their everyday interactions, the nuns engage in phenomenological meaning-making process through which mundane care interactions are rendered sacred. This communicative process, I argue, contributes to the nuns’ overall wellbeing by providing an enriched form of care and support, thereby enhancing their end-of-life experience.

Corwin, “Changing God, Changing Bodies: The Impact of New Prayer Practices on Elderly Catholic Nuns’ Embodied Experience”

Corwin, Anna (2012) “Changing God, Changing Bodies: The Impact of New Prayer Practices on Elderly Catholic Nuns’ Embodied Experience.” Ethos 40(4):390-410.

Abstract:  I focus this study on changes in the prayer lives of U.S. Catholic nuns following Vatican II; widespread institutional change in the Catholic Church that, among other things, transformed U.S. Catholic nuns’ lives. In the article, I combine a phenomenological model of embodiment with narrative analysis to show how institutional linguistic prayer practices transform elderly nuns’ embodied experience as they age. Drawing on naturalistic video- and audio-recordings gathered over three years in a Catholic convent in the Midwestern United States, I show how changing communicative and embodied prayer practices following Vatican II have impacted U.S. Catholic nuns’ (1) understanding of the divine, (2) relationship with the divine, (3) embodied experience of the divine, and (4) how these changes have impacted their experiences of and interpretation of physical states including illness and pain. Overall, I offer insight into how changes in the nuns’ linguistic practice of prayer impact the nuns’ documented success in managing loneliness and chronic pain at the end of life.