Synopses & Reviews
A fascinating history of the life and times of Margery Kempe, a medieval religious hysteric and mystic
- Provides a fascinating glimpse into the medieval life and times of a wife, mother, world traveler, and mystic.
- Concentrates on medieval society, culture and politics rather than the more commonplace psychological and spiritual examination of Margery Kempe
- This is not The Book of Margery Kempe but is instead a history of the later medieval world in which she lived.
Daughter of a mayor of King's Lynn, wife of a burgess there and mother of fourteen children, Margery Kempe (c.1373-post 1438) was also a religious mystic and hysteric, who dictated her 'autobiography' to a scribe at the end of her life. Not to be confused with the more commonly published Book of Margery Kempe, her autobiography discovered in 1934, this is a history/biography of her life in which Tony Goodman examines The Book, to reconstruct as much of her conventional biography as the materials allow. While including her spiritual experiences, the author focuses most particularly on her day-to-day life as he builds an intriguing picture of bourgeois society of late medieval Lynn, and the wider world of late medieval towns in England and Europe more generally.
A. E. Goodman is Professor of Medieval and Renaissance History at the University of Edinburgh.
Daughter of a mayor of King's Lynn, wife of a burgess there and mother of fourteen children, Margery Kempe (c. 1373-post 1438) was also a religious mystic and hysteric, who dictated her 'autobiography' to a scribe at the end of her life. In this history of her life, Anthony Goodman examines "The Book", to reconstruct as much of her conventional biography as the materials allow. Including her spiritual experiences, but focusing most particularly on her day-to-day life, he builds an intriguing picture of bourgeois society in late medieval Lynn, and the wider world of late medieval towns in England and Europe more generally.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 261-268) and index.
"Professor Goodman pulls off the extraordinary trick of both illuminating the text as literary artefact and at the same time using it as a historical source. He does so by placing the book and its subject firmly in the context of the society of late-medieval Kings Lynn...The book contains many gems beside the exploration of Margery's spirituality...Margery Kempe has been awaiting her modern amanuensis and historian for a long time. Now she has found him; this book will not so rapidly disappear from view as did hers." "
Professor A.J. Pollard, Teeside University"
"A lucid and well-written history, which makes Margery's complex character more comprehensible by setting her in the social and spiritual context of the community in which she lived, and illuminates many aspects of fifteenth-century religious life""
Professor J.A.F. Thomson, Edinburgh University
Margery Kempe is one of the most extraordinary figures in English medieval history. Daughter of a mayor of King's Lynn, wife of a burgess and mother of fourteen children, she was also the author of the first autobiography ever dictated by an Englishwoman. "The Book of Margery Kempe," a single manuscript dictated 1436-38, and discovered in the 1930s, was not brief and formal as one would expect but an uninhibited, exhibitionist, outpouring of impassioned emotions, confessional in the religious and psychiatric sense. It is notable as an example of post-classical autobiography, from a highly unusual source - an illiterate woman of burgess status. The Book comprises an account of the mystical intimations of a lady born into the Lynn's stately but troubled elite. These episodes are interlinked with equally dramatic accounts ofmundane experiences, in Margery's home town, in many English regions, and as far afield as Brandenburg, Rome and Jerusalem.
Tony Goodman reviews all aspects of Margery's career and writings in this full history of her life and times, but particularly examines the Book to expose the bourgeois society of late medieval Lynn and also to reconstruct her conventional biography, aside from the intensity of visions and devils. Margery Kempe provides a mirror to the world in which she lived, giving the reader an opportunity to hear a "real" voice of medieval people, from Lancastrian kings to the people of the Baltic.
Anthony Goodman is Professor of Medieval and Renaissance History in the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of many books, including The Wars of the Roses'.