Authority and the Female Body in the Writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe
The writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe show an awareness of traditional and contemporary attitudes towards women, in particular medieval attitudes towards the female body. This study examines the extent to which they make use of such attitudes in their writing, and investigates the importance of the female body as a means of explaining their mystical experiences and the insight gained from them; in both writers, the female body is central to their writing, leading to a feminised language through which they achieve authority and create a space in which they can be heard, particularly in the context of their religious and mystical experiences. The three archetypal representations of woman in the middle ages, as mother, as whore and as "wise woman", are all clearly present in the writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe; in examining the ways in which both writers make use of these female categories, McAvoy establishes the extent of their success in resolving the tension between society's expectations of them and their own lived experiences as women and writers. LIZ HERBERT MCAVOY is Senior Lecturer in Gender in English and Medieval Literature, College of Arts and Humanities, Swansea University
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anchoress anchorhold anchoritic Ancrene Wisse asserts attempt attitudes authority Birgitta bodily Book of Margery Bynum century Chapter child Christ Christian Christine de Pizan Church Colledge and Walsh concept contemporary context course depiction desire discourse divine English essay examination example experiences female body female voice feminine flesh gender God's Golden Legend hermeneutic highly human humankind imagery insight Irigaray Julian of Norwich Julian's writing Kempe and Julian Kempe's Kristeva late Middle Lochrie Lollard London Long Text lord male manuscript Margery Kempe Margery's Mary Magdalene masculine maternal means Mechthild of Magdeburg medieval women Middle Ages Middle English mother motherhood narrative oral particular patriarchal potential prophetic prostitution recognise redemptive religious representation role Saint Saint Birgitta sche scribe sexual Short Text Sibyl Similarly Song of Songs spiritual suffering suggest textual tion tradition trans Virgin visionary Voaden Watson whilst whore wife Wife of Bath wisdom wolde womb words wyth