Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Margery Kempe and Her World

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Margery Kempe and Her World

Article excerpt

Goodman, Anthony. Margery Kempe and Her World. (Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education Limited. 2005. Pp. xx, 274. $32.99 paperback.)

Those approaching Anthony Goodman's new work on Margery Kempe may be somewhat alarmed by the Series Editor's preface: "remarkable spiritual insights"; "her struggles to negotiate her way through the patriarchal expectations"; "apparent personality disorder" (p. ix). Same old Margery. In fact Margery Kempe and Her World is not the same old Margery. It is far more creative, interesting, and sensible, and makes a valuable contribution to an increasingly overcrowded field.

Goodman focuses on the relationship between the social context and The Book to provide an "understanding of the possible ways in which knowledge of these contexts can augment our understanding of The Book, and the extent to which The Book can be used to illuminate them" (p. 13). Moving back and forth from context to text, with a thorough mastery of both, Goodman succeeds both in offering new and plausible interpretations of Kempe's intriguing work and in allowing The Book to make sense of late medieval English social and religious life.

The suggestion that a book is an excellent introductory text too often seems somehow insulting, conjuring up images of sophomore essays and pedestrian textbooks. This is an excellent introductory text. Students who read it will learn a great deal about important aspects of life in late medieval England. …

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