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Familial Discourses in «The Book of Margery Kempe»

«Blyssed be the wombe that the bar and the tetys that yaf the sowkyn»


Raphaela Rohrhofer

The Book of Margery Kempe (ca. 1438) offers an illuminating account of late medieval female spirituality, affective devotion and subversion. This study approaches Margery Kempe’s roles in her earthly, heavenly and spiritual families from an interdisciplinary perspective. It details the tension between the domestic and spiritual life of the eccentric visionary and examines the intense agony and ecstatic pleasure imposed on her by the divine. Extensive research is devoted to late medieval female mysticism and the complex question of authorship and genre of The Book of Margery Kempe. In addition to a meticulous textual analysis, contemporary socio-religious, historical, medical and legal sources yield profound insights into the emotional and spiritual climate of the late Middle Ages.
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4. Epilogue


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4 Epilogue

[The priest], lyftyng up hys handys and blyssyng hym, seyd: “Benedicite! What cowd a woman ocupyn an owyr er tweyn owyrs in the lofe of owyr Lord? I schal nevyr ete mete tyl I wete what ye kan sey of owyr Lord God the tyme of on owyr.” (MK 114)

It has been the aim of this study to illuminate the late medieval visionary Margery Kempe’s familial relationships of varied natures as well as the familial ties taken up by others in relation to her as presented in The Book of Margery Kempe. The scope of this paper has been conditioned by The Book’s treatment of her earthly, divine/saintly, and spiritual family. Apart from the literary analysis, included in this discussion have been socio- and literary-historical, theological, and legal coeval discourses, especially mysticism and affective devotion, the various concepts of the medieval family and the feminine condition in the Middle Ages. Beyond that, the extent to which The Book reflects lived experience and historical facts as well as the possibility of it being a purely literary creation by an unidentifiable author has been discussed.

It has become customary for a conclusion to present the new insights gained by the foregoing study in condensed form. However, it is to my opinion that while in the preceding analysis every topic discussed has been imbued with new meaning which goes far beyond pre-existing Margery-Kempe-centred scholarship, the detailed reiteration of these findings is...

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