Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Margery Kempe's Meditations: The Context of Medieval Devotional Literature, Liturgy and Iconography

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Margery Kempe's Meditations: The Context of Medieval Devotional Literature, Liturgy and Iconography

Article excerpt

Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa, Margery Kempe's Meditations: The Context of Medieval Devotional Literature, Liturgy and Iconography, Religion and Culture in the Middle Ages (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007). xii + 193 pp. ISBN 0-7083-1910-6 and 978-0-70831910-9. £60.00.

The Book of Margery Kempe has been so often and so variously examined that it is a pleasure to find a study that returns to its evident and self-conscious religiousness, and concerns itself with those aspects of the text that reveal Margery Kempe's own devout practices and ecclesial understanding. Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa's culturally sensitive reading of the Book engages literary, liturgical, and iconographie influences, but its primary emphasis is on meditation, an important and not overstudied aspect of the text. But here I must declare an interest and say that in 1989 I published The Revehtions of Margery Kempe: Paramystical Practices in Late Medieval England, in Douglas Grey and John Norton Smith's Medieval and Renaissance Authors series, which clearly overlaps upon several of Yoshikawa's themes and concerns, but which escaped her notice, just as it evidently did those of her Ph.D. supervisor and examiners, whom she names and thanks.

But it should be said too that in spite of our books' similarities they are by no means identical, even though I am quite sure that a reading of my text would have sharpened her analysis, perhaps even tempering the way she formulated her theory concerning the Boo/k's structure, if only by encouraging her to take up the question of authorship, curiously neglected here, though now generally understood to be an important (and no longer defamatory) aspect of the text, and more or less obviously important for the argument she seeks to make. In my study I was concerned to identify and consider the many revelations (Yoshikawa prefers the now more usual term 'visions') Margery details, and to show how they often sprang from a tradition of affective meditation that was well established and widely understood in the period, and that read against this tradition it is possible to see Margery as more embedded in her time, less estranged from it, than she is represented as in much commentary. …

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