Book of Margery Kempe

Margery Kempe
• Daughter of John Brunham, who was once
mayor of King’s Lynn in Norfolk
• Married John Kempe of Lynn c.1393, but
abandoned him and married life to devote
herself to religion
• Apparently her husband agreed to the terms
of their separation; they both took a vow of
Margery Kempe
• Kempe had clearly fulfilled her marital
responsibilities—she and her husband had
14 children
• Kempe made a spectacle of herself with her
noisy weeping during her visions
• Traveled widely on pilgrimages to
Jerusalem, Rome, Compostella, and various
other sites
Book of Margery Kempe
• Recounts Kempe’s visions and
experiences with great vividness
• Experiences recounted include
temptations to lechery, travels, and
accusations of heresy
Book of Margery Kempe
• Kempe was illiterate, so she had to
dictate her book in two parts to two
different scribes
• The second scribe was a priest, and he
revised the whole text, making one
wonder what other changes he might
have made
Book of Margery Kempe
• Experts assure us that the work still has
Kempe’s characteristic touch, despite the
editorial changes
• The work isn’t a mystical text in the strictest
sense, so it doesn’t have that sort of appeal
Why do we study The Book of
Margery Kempe?
• Kempe’s style is vigorous and readable and
the subject matter is generally interesting
• The work is an early example of
autobiography, providing insight into life in
the late middle ages
Julian of Norwich
• Was a recluse in a cell attached to the
church of St. Julian at Norwich
• Wrote Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love
(c.1393) describing visions revealed to her
during her illness in 1373 and her
reflections on them
Julian of Norwich
• We know next to nothing about Julian, aside
from the information that she provides in A
Book of Showings
• Julian’s description of her “showings” or
revelations is precise—we know the exact
date of the visions: May 13, 1373
Julian of Norwich
• There are two versions of A Book of
Showings: a short version and a long
• Long version of Showings contains Julian’s
commentary, which was result of years of
contemplation, study, and prayer on visions
Julian of Norwich
• Julian developed some rich and incredibly
complex theological concepts during her
contemplation of the visions
• Showings is the work of an accomplished
prose stylist, and a thoughtful Christian
theologian and mystic