«Blyssed be the wombe that the bar and the tetys that yaf the sowkyn»
2. Medieval Spirituality
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2 Medieval Spirituality
For a thorough discussion of Margery Kempe, a brief outline of the theories surrounding medieval mysticism and spirituality, which so immensely shape her life, is of paramount importance. It is, however, not possible to answer the question of Margery Kempe’s membership to the exclusive coterie of “true mystics” within the limited scope of this study. More precisely, the study intentionally abstains from any attempt at such a classification and shall instead approach this medieval woman via an interdisciplinary analysis of coeval sources and interrelated spiritual role models. Ultimately, it remains debatable whether “authentic mysticism”, which is after all a judgemental term, might be conducive for an understanding of her spirituality at all. This approach is similar to Peter Dinzelbacher‘s, who questions the feasibility as well as the benefit of a literary scholar attempting a distinction between “real” and “pathological” mysticism. According to him, discrimination between these two states does not further our understanding of the Middle Ages at all (Dinzelbacher, Mittelalterliche 25).5
2.1 Mysticism – A Concise Analysis
In her book Mysticism, distinguished expert and mystic Evelyn Underhill refers to the term mysticism as ”one of the most abused words in the English language“ (Underhill XIV). The Latin term mystic initially signified something “hidden, secret, allegorical” (Watson, Introduction 6). The current state of affairs, namely that the term mysticism is heavily charged with negative connotations, is in all probability not only attributable to its etymology but also...
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