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The crisis of interpretation in The Book of Margery Kempe: 'Ye wote ful lityl what sche felyth'

Abstract : Margery Kempe's account of her mystical experience reveals a major fault line of late medieval society, where the authorities come into conflict. The new, highly personal strain of devotion she embraces confronts the clergy with the problem of controlling and channelling the powerful emotional expressions that result. The book documents Margery's quest for trustworthy and sympathetic spiritual counsellors, a search that is never quite resolved. Christ seems to represent the ideal confessor, speaking from and in the penitent's heart. Still, in order to confirm their authenticity, Margery must disclose her 'feelings' to clerical authorities, and the response to her revelations is ambivalent. To make interpretation more difficult, Margery frequently proclaims that inner experience is impossible to represent; she does not have the vocabulary to translate it for her judges. In The Book of Margery Kempe the fluctuation between feelings of doubt and conviction, dread and relief, exposes the interpretative difficulties that spiritual experience poses in the later Middle Ages.
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https://hal-univ-tlse2.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00772731
Contributor : Wendy Harding <>
Submitted on : Friday, January 11, 2013 - 9:31:30 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - 5:58:10 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Friday, April 12, 2013 - 11:16:41 AM

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Wendy Harding. The crisis of interpretation in The Book of Margery Kempe: 'Ye wote ful lityl what sche felyth'. Voix de femmes au Moyen Age, Mar 2010, Paris, France. pp.227-242. ⟨hal-00772731⟩

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