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The Book of Margery Kempe (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback – November 10, 2000


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The Book of Margery Kempe (Norton Critical Editions) + The Lais of Marie de France (Penguin Classics) + The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (Penguin Classics)
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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Critical Editions
  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (November 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393976394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393976397
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The first autobiography written in English--by a brewery owner, Christian mystic, and mother of 14 named Margery Kempe, who died in the 15th century--is now available in a lively, modern translation by John Skinner. It begins with her stark conversion experience, heralded by a vision of Christ in her bedroom one night. The story follows Margery through pilgrimages across Europe and to the Holy Land, through a heresy trial in England, and her burgeoning mystical life. Similar in many ways to Showings by Julian of Norwich and the Confessions of Augustine, The Book of Margery Kempe is a beautiful description of medieval daily life and religious experience. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

This classic, one of the first English autobiographies, chronicles the spiritual life of a very unusual, and illiterate, medieval woman. Not an autobiography in the modern sense, the text?dictated between 1432 and 1436?provides sparse personal detail but does give some insight into the beliefs of this holy woman. Kempe (c. 1373-c. 1440) ran a brewery, married, and mothered 14 children before taking a vow of chastity. In her subsequent pilgrimages she learned much through pious conversations with strangers and gained important insights from her communion with God about how her manner of dress and uncontrolled tears at communion would save her from some "secret" sin. Numerous translations of these writings exist, including the Middle English Memoirs of a Medieval Woman (1983), but this text uses modern English and organizes the chapters chronologically, making for a better story. Recommended for popular religious collections.?Leo Kriz, West Des Moines Lib.,
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

It is a very rewarding read because of this and one of my favourite books.
Lisa Maynard
Margery Kempe presents a realistic look at the life of an average medieval woman of the upper class, apart from any religious content that the book possesses.
Kindle Customer
As the earliest piece of English writing (in the sense of first-hand account of life rather than fiction) this book is irreplaceable.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By etc on May 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
Margery Kempe lived from about 1373~1440s, and she really LIVED. In this book, accorded by many to be the first autobiography in English, a scribe records the tale of her life, but most specifically the aspects of it that relate to her spirituality. She was outspoken, controversial, courageous, annoying, devout, and eccentric and all of these aspects shine through into the book, even through the cloudy filter of a male religious scribe who may have 'polished' her words to make her sound more orthodox.
Margery began life as the daughter of the mayor of Lynn in England, and made a well-suited marriage. After the birth of her first child, she went mad due to some pent-up guilt and an unsympathetic confessor, and during this madness was spoken to by Jesus. This moment changed her life, and snapped her out of the madness. She continued with her worldly ways with failed attempts at entrepenurism and her delight in the physical side of marital relations... but after aobut 20 years she felt the pull of God and decided she needed to devote herself entirely to him.
Margery went about a long process of procuring chastity from her husband and set off on pilgrimages world wide. She was known for her loud, uncontrollable weeping fits that occured at random and caused many to claim she was a heretic. However, she stood trial before the Archbishops of England, on multiple occasions, and was never once convicted of heresy, and in fact often impressed the higher church officials with her knowledge of doctrine and the Bible. She went through many struggles in her life, but her deity was always there communicating with her or helping her through the cruelty of others, assuring her that all her pain on earth would only increase her joy in heaven.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jaime Andrews on June 25, 2014
Format: Paperback
Few female figures were as controversial in the early 1400s as Margery Kempe. Barry Windeatt's translation of "The Book of Margery Kempe" explores the life of this woman who was more than a wife and mother; she was also a businesswoman and religious visionary who dictated the earliest English autobiography known to modern readers.

In vivid detail, Windeatt describes Kempe's successes and failures. She birthed 14 children before feeling a religious calling (!!) and her brewery business failed. She was "continually hindered by her enemy, the devil, but continued to [perform] all her responsibilities wisely and soberly." Her leadership and vision makes her a unique woman living in medieval times that were not necessarily safe for her.

Few novels depict courage in woman as deep as Kemp's. Her pilgraimage to the Holy Land, dedication to chastity and the heresy trial she endured in England were quite harrowing. Few books are comparable to "The Book of Margery Kempe"; however, Samuel Fanous' book Christina of Markyate is similar. Readers who are more interested in the heresy trial will also enjoy Robert Bartlett's Trial by Fire and Water: The Medieval Judicial Ordeal.

No other book delves into Margery Kempe's life as her autobiography does. It emcompasses everything from religion to daily life in modern English, and it does not stray away from her faults. This translation has also been organized in a neat manner, encourging easier reading. This accessible book will fit in great alongside any historical or religious collection.
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37 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on October 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
My Medieval class is keeping me very busy reading about women in the 14th century. First, I read about Julian of Norwich and her book, "Revelations of Divine Love", which I found to be very wordy and dense. "The Book of Margery Kempe" was easier, in that the theological development is embryonic, and therefore easier to understand, and the reader gets more information about Margery and her personal life.
Margery Kempe lived in England in the 14th century. The daughter of a well-to-do who served as mayor of his town, Margery seems to have had high expectations for her life that weren't realized. She married a man who had money problems, had fourteen children, and ran a brewery business that failed. After the birth of one of her children, Margery had a vision of Christ, and her life was forever changed. The bulk of the book details her various pilgrimages and adventures, as well as detailed accounts of her discussions with Christ.
While this is quite a colorful book, in an emotional sense, Margery doesn't come across as a very sincere person, which is what one would expect from a bride of Christ. One small incident that comes to mind is when Margery is praying for one of her religious instructors to get well. She doesn't pray that he will get healthy for his own sake, but so that she will be able to talk to him again. This theme of self-centered behavior runs throughout the book. Problems are seen not as tests of her faith or spirit, but as personal attacks on Margery, and they are something to be confronted instead of endured, although Margery pays lip service to the concepts of patience and humility.
What got Margery into so much trouble in the first place was the expressions of her intimate dialogues with Christ.
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