Queer Touch Between Holy Women: Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Birgitta of Sweden, and the Visitation
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This essay takes a new approach to the well-known meeting between two late-medieval English visionary women, Margery Kempe and the anchoress Julian of Norwich, as described in The Book of Margery Kempe. In this analysis their conversation subtly evokes a long history of women concentrating their subversive power through intimate, spiritual exchange, a history reaching back to the Biblical Visitation scene and expressed in its medieval artistic and literary instantiations. A queer reading illuminates the way that such female same-sex relationships challenge patriarchal systems by offering a privileged access to God outside clerical supervision. By examining Margery and Julian’s encounter, Luke’s Visitation passage, its depiction in a late-medieval Book of Hours, and comparing two different Middle English translations of a Visitation vision in Birgitta of Sweden’s Revelations, the full transgressive effect of queer touch between women—or even its unspoken possibility—emerges.
Under embargo until: 2021-12-17