Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic
Book for 1999
Karma Lochrie demonstrates that women were associated not with the
body but rather with the flesh, that disruptive aspect of body and
soul which Augustine claimed was fissured with the Fall of Man. It
is within this framework that she reads The Book of Margery
Kempe, demonstrating the ways in which Kempe exploited the
gendered ideologies of flesh and text through her controversial
practices of writing, her inappropriate-seeming laughter, and the
most notorious aspect of her mysticism, her "hysterical" weeping
expressions of religious desire. Lochrie challenges prevailing
scholarly assumptions of Kempe's illiteracy, her role in the
writing of her book, her misunderstanding of mystical concepts, and
the failure of her book to influence a reading community. In her
work and her life, Kempe consistently crossed the barriers of those
cultural taboos designed to exclude and silence her.
Instead of viewing Kempe as marginal to the great mystical and
literary traditions of the late Middle Ages, this study takes her
seriously as a woman responding to the cultural constraints and
exclusions of her time. Margery Kempe and Translations of the
Flesh will be of interest to students and scholars of medieval
studies, intellectual history, and feminist theory.
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