Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

A Contemplative Biography of Julian of Norwich

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

A Contemplative Biography of Julian of Norwich

Article excerpt

A Contemplative Biography of Julian of Norwich. By Amy Frykholm. (Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2010, Pp. xxii, 147. $19.99.)

One of the challenges of biography in general and medieval biography in particular is knowing the subject well enough to disclose him or her to the reader. In the medieval context, disclosing a "her" is even more difficult. The sources are rare indeed for anyone from that time period, let alone a woman who found her historical significance within the male-dominated structure of the church. And yet this is the task Amy Frykholm has embraced in A Contemplative Biography of Julian of Norwich. Julian was a late fourteen, early fifteenth-century mystic from the city of Norwich, in the far eastern portion of England. Most readers of medieval mysticism have heard of Julian and her famous visions. But very little is known of the woman who claimed to receive such powerful revelations of the love of God. Frykholm sets out to introduce the reader, as much as is possible given the lack of historical documentation about Julian, to this fascinating woman.

Given the scarcity of primary materials, Frykholm structures her book in a both practical and didactic manner. Since Frykholm presents Julian as a woman who became an anchoress, the reader comes to know Julian through small windows of her life. Each chapter of this delightful book is labeled a "window" since the reader sees Julian only partially, hidden by the centuries and the lack of primary sources. The anchorhold had three windows opening on the outside world: one to receive food from a servant, one to speak with visitors (through a curtain) who sought spiritual counsel, and one that opened on the church and its daily services. …

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