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Julian’s Radical God and Margery’s Defiant Spirituality

Julian’s Radical God and Margery’s Defiant Spirituality

Consider how Julian, in A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, presents many traditional images of God and has some surprising ways of experiencing or describing God. In your analysis, identify one to two nontraditional representations of God and explain how each could provide a deeper understanding of God, Christ, the Trinity, or traditional Christian teachings.

Time and again, people talk about their near-death experiences, depicting their feelings and retelling stories of what they went through during such experiences. The same applies to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, who, after getting seriously ill, had sixteen visions considered mystical experiences. The visions are analyzed in her book, A Book of Showings. In the book, there are several nontraditional representations of God.

First, she refers to Christ as the mother of humanity; this representation is based on her stipulation that He gives birth to salvation under excruciating conditions (Abrams et al. 413). According to Howard et al., the Christian religion conceptualizes God to be of the male gender, fueling the patriarchy (218). Further, they argue that the conceptualization of the masculinity of God is an ideology that religious institutions affirm and do not consider changing (Howard et al. 228). They push for the use of language that is not based on gender while referring to God or the utilization of female pronouns. Accordingly, the representation as a Mother provides a deeper understanding of God, Christ, the Trinity, or traditional Christian teachings by giving a different perspective other than what has been shared over time. This perspective deepens understanding by changing how people look at God’s sacrifice of Christ and Christ’s passion in addition to the view of the Holy Spirit.

Second, the view of sin changes the traditional representations of God. Traditionally, Christian teachings involve sin conceptualization as wrongdoing that people should avoid; Nyong and Ekpenyong argue that “sin is seen as any action or mindset that goes against a constituted order” (127). In contrast, Anchoress Julian of Norwich stipulates that in her vision, Christ referred to sin as “behovely” (Abrams et al. 413), illustrating that it is not evil but a significant part in the life of a Christian for the glory of God. Thus, this rendition provides a deeper understanding of God, Christ, the Trinity, or traditional Christian teachings; it provides an alternative view of sin and its impacts on people’s lives.

When compared to Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe’s works have been harshly criticized (often by early 20th-century male clerical critics). To what extent does Margery’s gender affect her spiritual experiences? Do you believe that her gender impacted the harsh criticism of her texts? What elements of her visions seem particularly tied to traditional expectations and experiences of medieval women?

Margery Kempe was different from Julian of Norwich in several ways. These differences fueled the harsh criticism Margery Kempe received regarding her work. Her work was mainly based on her experiences as a woman and mother, elaborating on her illiteracy (Özbey 12), while Julian of Norwich was literate. As a medieval mystic writer, she wrote about her visions, which began after she delivered her first child due to labor pains. Her reaction made her feel as though she had committed a sin and was possessed by the devil (Özbey 12). Her visions entailed the passion of Christ and the Virgin’s suffering, followed by weeping (Abrams et al. 425).

Margery’s gender significantly affects her spiritual experiences. Her spiritual journey began after the birth of her first child, which set her on a path to get closer to God, leading her to spend much of her time alone and with God. Additionally, her intimacy with her husband was threatened during her spiritual journey as she wanted celibacy, an idea that religious doctrines did not agree with (Özbey 13). Some of these factors consistently illustrate why Margery Kempe’s works have been harshly criticized. As a woman, she set herself apart with her ideologies and actions, which led society to attack her. Her illiteracy did not help with the criticism, as her ideologies may have been questioned based on it. Additionally, during her time, the religious doctrines were composed of men who opposed her radical thoughts and actions, contributing to the harsh criticism of her texts.

Some elements of her visions seem particularly tied to traditional expectations and experiences of medieval women. Her visions involved Christ’s passion and the suffering of the Virgin. Her devotion to God, elaborated in her actions, including celibacy, paints her as a servant subordinate to others, as expected of medieval women who belonged to their husbands after marriage. Also, her constant weeping illustrated the traditional expectations and experiences of medieval female saints who conducted themselves similarly to Margery (Özbey 15).

Works Cited

Abrams, M. H et al. The Norton Anthology Of English Literature. 9th ed., W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012, pp. 140 – 482.

Howard, Simon, et al. “The Relationship between God’s Gender, Gender System Justification, and Sexism.” The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, vol. 30, no. 3, 2020, pp. 216-230.

Nyong , Akpanika Ekpenyong, and Eyo  Ubong Ekpenyong. “Comparative Study of Vaginitis and Candida in Sexually Active Women in Traditional Sprawling Town in the Niger Delta, South-South Nigeria.” Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Development, 2020, https://doi.org/10.47485/2694-5614.1005.

Özbey, Kübra Vural. “The Spiritual Development Of A Medieval Woman: The Book Of Margery Kempe.” Ortaçağ Araştırmaları Dergisi, vol 5, no. 1, 2022, pp. 11-19. Ortacag Arastirmalari Dergisi, https://doi.org/10.48120/oad.1089803.

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Question 


Choose two prompts below to complete the Module 3 Writing Assignment, referring to the Literary Analysis Assignment Rubric [PDF]. Click for more options on the Literary Analysis Assignment Rubric [PDF]. – Alternative Formats: Each answer should be approximately 300-400 words (2/3 to 1 page long). Please copy and paste the writing prompt before each of your responses.
Review the reading on the three medieval estates — clergy, nobles, and peasants. Choose at least two characters from “The General Prologue” and discuss whether they fit the characteristics of their estates or not. How many characters seem to uphold the ideals of their professions? Why would Chaucer include characters that do not fit their estates? What commentary is he making about individuals in specific careers?
When reading “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale,” one should note that her prologue is far more extended than her actual tale. Why does Chaucer devote so much time to the character’s history? How does the Wife’s romantic history connect with the moral of her story? What might Chaucer be commenting on with the Wife’s history?
Consider how Julian, in A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, presents many traditional images of God and has some surprising ways of experiencing or describing God. In your analysis, identify one to two nontraditional representations of God and explain how each could provide a deeper understanding of God, Christ, the Trinity, or traditional Christian teachings.
When compared to Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe’s works have been harshly criticized (often by early 20th-century male clerical critics). To what extent does Margery’s gender affect her spiritual experiences? Do you believe that her gender impacted the harsh criticism of her texts? What elements of her visions seem particularly tied to traditional expectations and experiences of medieval women?

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