So this is the relevant passage from my SoP, if that helps:
...the majority of my time has been spent studying a collection of thirteenth-century sermons or collationes preached by the monks of the Cistercian monastery of Foigny, which I am translating for publication. It is through my study of Foigny and its sermons that I first began to be suspicious of monastic claims of stability and isolation, the central topic I will address in my doctoral studies.
Over the past fifty years, medieval monastic historians have become increasingly aware of problems within their source texts. Simply put, the goal of a monastic author differed from that of a modern historian. Through literature and legal documents, monks created a written world which reflected their internal ideals, not lived reality. With this in mind, recent monographs and articles have turned a critical eye on claims that monasteries were located in ‘deserts’, the nature and role of lay brothers, monastic ‘reform’ movements, and even how monasteries followed—or did not follow—the Rule of St. Benedict.
The narrative most scholars have constructed from primary sources (most notably monastic rules) insists that, with the exception of abbots and a few special cases, monks never wandered beyond their monastery’s walls. In the past two decades, this understanding has started to crumble. Scholars of the late Middle Ages have recently challenged this understanding with respect to women, noting that the papal bull Periculoso of 1298 constituted the first real attempt to insist on inclaustration as a necessary condition for being a nun. Based on the decree’s repetition throughout the fourteenth century, however, practice resisted the call to conform to the ideal. Moreover, there was no corresponding decree aimed at men. Did mulieres religiosae have a propensity for wandering not found in their male counterparts, or was monkish migration not a cause for concern?
In stark contrast to the ideal of stabilitas found in monastic sources, texts written by members of the secular clergy often feature monks wandering in the world. The Life of Marie d’Oignies by Jacques de Vitry depicts Cistercian monks not only outside of their cloisters, but even processing as a group through the center of town, inspiring the young Marie to a life of devotion. Through my own work, I have found that contact and communication across the monastery walls was much more frequent than previously imagined. An examination of Foigny and its sermons provides substantial evidence for the constant flow of ideas, goods, and people through the monastery. Foigny’s monks were constantly engaged in the broader intellectual, social, and political currents of their milieu. They discussed heresy, crusade, scholasticism, the incorporation of female houses, and even the decline of the nearby cathedral school of Laon and the growing careerism of its canons. An examination of Foigny’s cartularies shows an active relationship between the monastery and distant noble patrons, mediated through the sees of Laon and Reims, as well as constant interest in the monastery among the townspeople of Laon. The frequency and nature of these contacts with the outside world constitute clear evidence for the porousness of the cloister walls. By approaching the question of the connections between monasteries and the outside world through both a traditional examination of the textual sources and the application of spatial and network analysis, my doctoral work will shed new light on the lives of medieval monastics.