This work examines the ways in which medieval mystics attempt to orient themselves to God through metaphorically organizing the spaces of anchorhold, bedroom, and pilgrimage. In this work, I have examined one type of mystical metaphor, the familial metaphor. By using the familial relationship as a referent for their metaphors, mystics speak of the ways in which they understand God's motherhood, fatherhood, childhood, brotherhood, sisterhood and spousehood. In the same way, these mystics indicate the spiritual possibilities of family relationships. Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe use metaphorical discourse that creates familial relationships between themselves. God., their community, and ultimately, their readers. For these mystics interested in seeing God in the everyday, the divine and secular cannot be separated. God and Jesus can mother and father, and therefore, through the metaphorical dimensions of mothers and fathers, the mystics give these divine acts a certain human form. In order to employ such metaphor, the figurative language must be understood as referring to some thing, some act that is recognizable, familiar. In this way, Margery and Julian see the human fitting into the divine image in terms of human capabilities, in this case, the human capability to create, to nurture, to guide, and to love. Not only are God and Jesus understood in terms of the positive acts of humanity, but the mystics give those positive acts, in this case acts connected to parenting, a spiritual awareness.
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Dr. Christopher Roman is Assistant Professor of English at Kent State University Tuscarawas. He has published articles on mysticism and gender and has presented at several national and international conferences. His current scholarship focuses on space as a marker of identity in religious discourse.Review:
"The "writings" of Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich are impressive for many reasons, not to mention that these women appropriate a medium of expression determined and defined by male mysties and manage to feminize that discourse....Roman's study begins with the hypothesis that Margery and Julian domesticate the mystic tradition by taking terminology used to describe family relationships and domestic spaces and reconfiguring it for spiritual purposes. His argument is that both writers use this terminology to articulate a spiritual reality - and create a spiritual and familial bond with the Trinity.... In the end, Roman confirms the hypothesis that sets him out on his study. Margery and Julian appropriate the discourse and language of male mystics, and destabilize it to serve their decidedly feminine purposes. Roman perceptively uncovers how the power of Julian's and Margery's mystical writing stems from a decidedly domestic domain. In so doing Roman demonstrates how these writers struggle to put into material terms the spiritual and ineffable. Christopher Roman's study will be a welcomed addition to the critical dialogue surrounding the work of Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich. It also could set the terms for that dialogue for the next several years."- (From the Commendatory Foreword) Joseph Hornsby, Associate Professor of English, University of Alabama"
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