Kempe, Margery: Further Reading

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Collis, Louise. Memoirs of a Medieval Woman: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe. New York: Crowell, 1964, 270 p.

Offers a novelistic and sometimes inaccurate biography of Kempe, though highly accessible.

Goodman, Anthony. "Margery and Urban Gender Roles." In Margery Kempe and Her World. New York: Longman, 2002, 274 p.

Provides a biography emphasizing the details Kempe provides about her life as a medieval Englishwoman.


Allen, Hope Emily. Preface to The Book of Margery Kempe, Vol. 1, edited by Sanford Brown Meech, pp. i-v. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1940.

Discusses various influences on Kempe's Book, particularly the work of other medieval mystic writers.

Atkinson, Clarissa W. Mystic and Pilgrim: The Book and the World of Margery Kempe. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983, 241 p.

Examines Kempe's book as an autobiography with an emphasis on her role in the tradition of women in Christian history.

Beckwith, Sarah. "A Very Material Mysticism: The Medieval Mysticism of Margery Kempe." In Gender and Text in the Later Middle Ages, edited by Jane Chance, pp. 195-212. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996.

Studies the issue of Kempe's female mysticism from the perspective of developing a feminine subjectivity.

Delaney, Sheila. "Sexual Economics, Chaucer's Wife of Bath, and The Book of Margery Kempe." Minnesota Review, n.s., no. 1 (fall 1975): 104-15.

Characterizes Kempe's life as an attempt to escape from the social and sexual oppressions of her day.

Dickman, Susan. "Margery Kempe and the Continental Tradition of the Pious Woman." In The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England: Papers Read at Dartington Hall, July 1984, edited by Marion Glascoe, pp. 150-68. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1984.

Views Kempe's life as "an identifiably medieval, bourgeois, English adaptation" of the role of a pious woman.

Harding, Wendy. "Body Into Text: The Book of Margery Kempe. "In Feminist Approaches to the Body in Medieval Literature, edited by Linda Lomperis and Sarah Stanbury, pp. 168-85. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

Contends that The Book of Margery Kempe is a dialogue between Kempe's scribe as a representative of the literate, celibate, male clerical segment of society, and Kempe, as a representative of illiterate, married women who were not attached to a religious order; maintains that the Book disrupts these hierarchical oppositions.

Holbrook, Sue Ellen. "'About Her': Margery Kempe's Book of Feeling and Working." In The Idea of Medieval Literature: New Essays on Chaucer and Medieval Culture in Honor of Donald R. Howard, edited by James M. Dean and Christian K. Zacher, pp. 265-84. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1992.

Analyzes Kempe as a female writer, rather than as simply a storyteller or hysteric; emphasizes the significance to Kempe of creating a book of spiritual revelations, instead of receiving the revelations and sharing them with a select group.

Howes, Laura L. "On the Birth of Margery Kempe's Last Child." Modern Philology 90, no. 2 (November 1992): 220-25.

Discusses Kempe's pregnancy during a portion of her pilgrimage; suggests that the congruence of these events emphasizes the commingling of Kempe's physical and spiritual lives.

Knowles, David. "Margery Kempe." In The English Mystical Tradition, pp. 138-50. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961.

Concludes that Kempe was not a mystic on the level of Richard Rolle or Julian of Norwich while acknowledging that her Book is a valuable document for religious history.

Lochrie, Karma. "The Book of Margery Kempe: The Marginal Woman's Quest for Literary Authority." Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 16 (spring 1986): 33-55.

Observes strategies that Kempe used as a medieval woman author to legitimize her text.

——. "From Utterance to Text: Authorizing the Mystical Word." In Margery Kempe and Translations of the Flesh, pp. 97-134. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991.

Asserts that medieval mystical texts strive to "authorize the oral text within their written text"; examines Kempe's efforts to do so and the challenge presented by her illiteracy.

McAvoy, Liz Herbert. "'Aftyr Hyr Owyn Tunge': Body, Voice and Authority in The Book of Margery Kempe." Women's Writing 9, no. 2 (2002): 159-76.

Connects the physical body to the authority of the female narrator in Kempe's Book.

Medcalf, Stephen. "Inner and Outer." In The Later Middle Ages, edited by Stephen Medcalf, pp. 108-71. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1981.

Discusses Kempe's religion in comparing the Roman Catholic emphasis on outer signs and realities with the Protestant emphasis on inner attitudes and faith.

Mueller, Janel M. "Autobiography of a New 'Createur': Female Spirituality, Selfhood, and Authorship in The Book of Margery Kempe. "In Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Literary and Historical Perspectives, edited by Mary Beth Rose, pp. 155-68. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986.

Analyzes Kempe's Book as an autobiography exploring the issues of female spirituality and selfhood, focusing on narrative and thematic design.

Shklar, Ruth. "Cobham's Daughter: The Book of Margery Kempe and the Power of Heterodox Thinking." Modern Language Quarterly 56, no. 3 (September 1995): 277-304.

Suggests that the Lollards—a sect of religious reformers under the leadership of John Wycliffe—offered a framework of discourse from which Kempe developed her own methods of dissent and sense of vernacular spirituality.

Stevenson, Barbara. "Autobiographical Firsts: The Book of Margery Kempe and The Sarashina Diary." Medieval Perspectives 15, no. 2 (fall 2000): 81-93.

Compares early women's autobiographies across cultures, from England to Japan.

Thornton, Martin. Margery Kempe: An Example in the English Pastoral Tradition. London: S.P.C.K., 1960, 120 p.

Examines Kempe's work from a theological perspective, emphasizing her English outlook and considers her role in the history of English spirituality.

Weissman, Hope Phyllis. "Margery Kempe in Jerusalem: Hysterica Compassio in the Late Middle Ages." In Acts of Interpretation: The Text in its Contexts, 700-1600, edited by Mary J. Carruthers and Elizabeth D. Kirk, pp. 201-17. Norman, Okla.: Pilgrim Books, 1982.

Presents Kempe's Book as an expression of the motivating forces in her "life journey"; interprets Kempe as trapped within the patriarchal and ecclesiastical system, yet triumphant in flouting that authority.


Additional coverage of Kempe's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 146; Literature Criticism from 1400-1800, Vols. 6, 56; Literature Resource Center; Reference Guide to English Literature, Ed. 2.