Margery Kempe and her world
"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'.
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