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Reimagining this creature: hospitality and autohagiography in the visions of Margery Kempe
journal contributionposted on 2021-10-26, 15:26 authored by Joan FitzpatrickJoan Fitzpatrick
The Book of Margery Kempe tells the apparently true story of a medieval wife and mother of fourteen children who, following religious conversion, leaves her old life behind in order to dedicate herself to God. Apparently dictated to scribes by Kempe herself, the Book traces her treatment at the hands of her contemporaries, many of them hostile to her claims of religious visions and her odd behaviour as a result. While there has been some critical work done on the significance of food and drink in the Book, little has been observed about the role of food and drink in Kempe's visions. Specifically, critics have hitherto overlooked how it is via food, drink and performing the role of hostess in her visions that Kempe presented herself as an active and valuable participant in the Christian narrative and thus worthy of sainthood. Kempe is often unfavourably compared to Julian of Norwich, the calm and intellectual mystic who lived the solitary and dignified life of the anchoress. This article argues that the two women are more alike than is usually acknowledged. Kempe too withdrew from the world in her visions, in order to play a role in the Christian story and so promote her special status as a holy woman and her own narrative as a work of late medieval autohagiography.
- Social Sciences and Humanities