Academic journal article Magistra

Julian of Norwich: Autobiography and Theology

Academic journal article Magistra

Julian of Norwich: Autobiography and Theology

Article excerpt

Abbott, Christopher.

(Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, 1999). 197 pp., hc, $60.00, ISBN 0-85991-548-4.

Julian of Norwich has risen in the past several years from relative obscurity to a place of prominence in popular spirituality. Along with that fame has come a variety of writings about her and her spirituality, many written by and for the popular press. This book goes far beyond that into the real substance of her life and writings.

As the name accurately implies, this is a book examining both autobiography and theology. It takes those words seriously. It is not merely about her life and times but addresses her words as true autobiography. In the first part, Abbott examines not only what is known about her but what she is attempting to express about herself. Most importantly, he emphasizes the relationship of the woman with her text. It is evident that she is trying to make sense herself of the revelations which she has received. What is told about herself is:

...much more than the throwing in of a few stray bits of anecdote to add a splash of colour or light relief. Julian's foregrounding of her problematical relation to the showings is integral to the text's self-proclaimed revelatory function and operates in a dynamic way, through the narrated rhythm of seeking and beholding, to recreate a momentum of discovery in which the reader can vicariously participate (37).

Abbott, by this and other such succinct and insightful statements, puts an interesting perspective on Julian and how she articulates her experience. Surely this is an important way of getting to know her and truly interacting with her and her text.

This is only the beginning of this work's contribution. The second, and larger, part is devoted to Julian's theology. Here again, the word "theology" is a careful choice over "spirituality." The author recognizes Julian's role as critical thinker and proclaimer of an understanding of God. He begins by examining her journey into Christ, the transformative experience of the mystic in relation to the personal life with Jesus.

Abbott shows a solid understanding of the notion of incarnation as he outlines Julian's theology of the realtionship of divinity and humanity. He affirms that Julian has an orthodox view of the indwelling of God in persons without suggesting that people possess divinity. …

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