By Liz Herbert McAvoy
The writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe express an expertise of conventional and modern attitudes in the direction of ladies, specifically medieval attitudes in the direction of the feminine physique. This examine examines the level to which they utilize such attitudes of their writing, and investigates the significance of the feminine physique as a way of explaining their mystical studies and the perception received from them; in either writers, the feminine physique is relevant to their writing, resulting in a feminised language wherein they in achieving authority and create an area within which they are often heard, quite within the context in their non secular and mystical reports. the 3 archetypal representations of girl within the center a while, as mom, as whore and as 'wise woman', are all in actual fact found in the writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe; in interpreting the ways that either writers utilize those lady different types, McAvoy establishes the level in their good fortune in resolving the strain among society's expectancies of them and their very own lived studies as girls and writers. LIZ HERBERT MCAVOY is Lecturer in Medieval Language and Literature, collage of Leicester.
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Extra info for Authority and the Female Body in the Writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe (Studies in Medieval Mysticism)
In this context, it was with much scholarly disappointment that the discovery of the Salthouse manuscript was greeted, revealing as it did a very different kind of woman from the ‘deuoute ancres’ it had formerly been presumed Margery was, and one who could no longer be placed conveniently inside the same ‘box’ as Julian of Norwich. More recent criticism has therefore tended to concentrate on what has been perceived as the radical differences between these two women, and in most comparisons Margery Kempe has seemed destined to be reduced to a position of inferiority.
I will therefore suggest that, despite their being scapegoated by traditional patriarchal thinking, these areas of experience which were identifiably female were not always conceived as negative by the women themselves. Even whilst appearing to conform to social paradigms, both Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich demonstrate that it was also possible for a woman to define her own notion of femaleness and reassess (and cause others to reassess) the appropriateness of her own behaviour, both as an individual and as part of a corporate Christian body.
For discussions of a woman’s role within marriage see also Shahar, The Fourth Estate, pp. 65–125 and pp. 177–83. See also Shulamith Shahar, Childhood in the Middle Ages, pp. 115–16. For a recent examination of Margery’s changing role and status within an esteemed family and mercantile milieu see Michael D. Myers, ‘A Fictional-True Self: Margery Kempe and the Social Reality of the Merchant Elite of King’s Lynn’, Albion 31, 3 (1999), pp. 375–94. , 2002). My interpretation here of the sexual nature of Margery’s guilt is based upon the fact that she juxtaposes descriptions of her attempts to expiate her unconfessed sin and the description of her desire not to have to endure John Kempe’s sexual advances any more (11–12) alongside the account of a potentially adulterous liaison with a male acquaintance (13–16).
Authority and the Female Body in the Writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe (Studies in Medieval Mysticism) by Liz Herbert McAvoy