Familiar texts are studied: Ancrene Wisse (dated here to the late twelfth century, and seen as a text promoting many Cistercian themes), Richard Rolle's writings (practically all of them, including lesser-studied ones such as Melos Amoris), The Cloud of Unknowing and related texts, Walter Hilton's writings, and the works of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe
. Less familiar texts are also included, cause and effect of Riehle's idea that the so-called canon of mystical literature needs to be expanded, particularly given that medieval mystical texts could never be contained within a single genre.
Christine de Pizan at the French court and Margery Kempe
in late medieval England engaged with these sexist, androcentric traditions, reshaping them to expose the pitfalls that "sameness, rigidity and insularity" could inflict on a community.
(circa 1373-1438) was willful, inner-directed and self-determined--many would say to a fault.
of Margery Kempe
is not the text people immediately think of when they
went to Julian for a consultation about her own visionary experiences in the same year Julian wrote down the earlier text of her visions, which Margery is unlikely to have been able to read.
was often asked why she traveled dressed in white, but this seems never to have been a genuine request for information.
Tamas Karath's essay, the last in this section, focuses on the 15th-century Book of Margery Kempe
, the first acknowledged autobiography in English literature.
The sources tend to be derived from ecclesiastical and judicial sources: statements from councils and synods; libri pontificales, visitation records, and other collections from various diocese; Mirk's Instructions for Parish Priests and Festiai, and, of course, the ubiquitous Margery Kempe
. In other words, for a study that is interested in the parish and parishioners one might be surprised at the lack of sources tied to them such as wills, churchwardens' accounts, parish images, and architectural studies.
The final two chapters of the book attempt to identify xenoglossia in a few works of Middle English literature, the "autohagiography" of Margery Kempe
and three of the Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer.
Adrienne Williams Boyarin's "Sealed Flesh, Book-Skin: How to Read the Female Body in the Early Middle English Seinte Margarete" continues this theme, as do the contributions of Johanne Paquette, who offers a fascinating reading of the Book of Margery Kempe
and the marginalia of the text's red ink annotator, and Jonathan Juilfs, who considers the textual transmission of Julian of Norwich's Revelation of Love from the mid-fifteenth century Amherst manuscript through its first printed manifestation in Hugh Cressy's edition of 1670.
WHEN Margery Kempe
wrote what is widely considered to be the first autobiography in the English language in the 15th century, it is doubtful she expected female confession to be quite where it is today.
The essay includes an edifying focus on Margery Kempe
and the 'virtual' Jew in her visions of the Passion, despite the absence of Jews in England for over a century following their exile in 1290.