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The Book of Margery Kempe (Norton Critical Editions)

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9780393976397: The Book of Margery Kempe (Norton Critical Editions)
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The text presented here remains as faithful to the original Middle English as possible, without sounding archaic.

Kempe's work is accompanied by an introduction, a map of medieval England, a Kempe lexicon, and explanatory annotations.

"Contexts" collects primary readings that illuminate The Book of Margery Kempe.  Included are excerpts from The Constitutions of Thomas Arundel, Meditations on the Life of Christ, The Shewings of Julian of Norwich, The Book of Saint Bride, and The Life of Marie d'Oignies by Jacques de Vitry.

"Criticism" includes nine varied interpretations of the autobiography, written by Clarissa W. Atkinson, Lynn Staley, Karma Lochrie, David Aers, Kathleen Ashley, Gail McMurray Gibson, Sarah Beckwith, Caroline Walker Bynum, and Nicholas Watson.

A Selected Bibliography is also included.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Review:

The first autobiography written in English--by a brewery owner, Christian mystic, and mother of 14 named Margery Kempe, who died in the 15th century--is now available in a lively, modern translation by John Skinner. It begins with her stark conversion experience, heralded by a vision of Christ in her bedroom one night. The story follows Margery through pilgrimages across Europe and to the Holy Land, through a heresy trial in England, and her burgeoning mystical life. Similar in many ways to Showings by Julian of Norwich and the Confessions of Augustine, The Book of Margery Kempe is a beautiful description of medieval daily life and religious experience. --Michael Joseph Gross

From the Inside Flap:

Though a familiar name, little was known about the English mystic Margery Kempe (c. 1373-c. 1440) for hundreds of years except that she had an association with the great Julian of Norwich. This all changed in 1934 with the discovery of The Book of Margery Kempe in a library where it had lain hidden for four hundred years. Finding Margery's own story was important not just because of the light it shed on her life, but it also turned out to be the first known autobiography in the English language. Even more intriguing to the experts of the day, this unique document was written by a woman.

But if anyone had expected to find her anything like her cloistered contemporary, Julian, they were in for something of a surprise. Far from being a typical holy woman, Margery Kempe was married and mother of fourteen children. Moreover, she had been a woman of substance, even running a large brewery for a time. After turning to religion, she traveled thousands of miles around the known world on pilgrimages to distant lands.

Beyond the circumstances of her life, what's most compelling about the text is the inner Margery that emerges. Her account of spiritual awakening, far from being a blissful episode is instead full of conflict and recrimination. What good was this new way of life if it caused her such trouble? Was this really the only way to lead a holy life? Margery remained unsure of the answers. But her patience in her struggle is a wonder to behold, and an example for us today.

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