Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe: This woman was crazy. Hands down, batshit, insane.

So, let’s start with the good things first. This was the first autobiography practically and it is by a woman. A woman who got to do things not a lot of other medieval women got to do. That’s where the good ends however.

Unfortunately, the story of Margery Kempe, while it could be extremely interesting, is actually more irritating. This woman was crazy. Hands down, batshit, insane. Anyone that not only talks to a entity before them, but claims it’s Jesus, and then has visions about her being at the birth of Christ and being the one to swaddle baby Jesus, has issues. She later goes on to insinuate she would also like to “lie” with Jesus as well and Jesus is pretty okay with that… because you know, Jesus talks to her. Physically.

The women obviously had some mental health issues and I’m not condemning her for them. What does irritate me however is the fact that she spends the entire book waving around a flag saying “Look how pious I am”. I feel like this defeats the purpose of what she is trying to do. I also find it interesting that any time she wants to justify something, she hides behind religion. It’s okay for her to be the way she is and act the way she does, and also lecture and preach to others, because Jesus gave her the rubber stamp of approval. Overall, Margery Kempe is not a religious figure to look up to and instead is a self centered, self serving, medieval woman who used religion to gain fame. Sadly, I think she, if she ever realized this, would have hated herself for it.

Now, all in all, based on what I said above, that might even make the story a good read. However, the text is dry and self righteous and while I’m sure there are people out there who would like this novel, I found myself ranging between bored, and angry that this woman was our first example of a female autobiographer (although she didn’t write it herself. She dictated it to a man). I wouldn’t suggest picking up this book. If you’re curious, there are plenty of things to read about her on the internet and I can almost guarantee you’ll get more out of that, then this text here.

Source: Goodreads, Dana

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One thought on “Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe: This woman was crazy. Hands down, batshit, insane.

  1. There’s some very interesting research on ‘The Book of Margery Kempe’, and Margery herself. Not saying she wasn’t crazy, self-righteous/centered, or that the book is riveting by any means – but if you have a chance to check out a couple of articles, they shed some very interesting light on her and how she was intentionally trying to posture herself. Her book is more a work of propaganda or medieval ‘Vita’ than autobiography. Just a couple of interesting reads, if you have the time and inclination.

    Raymond A. Powell, “Margery Kempe: An Exemplar of Late Medieval English Piety,” The Catholic Historical Review 89.1 (January 2003), 1-23.

    Rosalynn Voaden and Stephanie Volf, “Visions of my Youth: Representations of the Childhood of Medieval Visionaries,” Gender & History 12.3 (November 2000), 665-684.

    Josephine K. Tarvers, “The Alleged Illiteracy of Margery Kempe: A Reconsideration of the Evidence,” Medieval Perspectives XI (1996), 113-123.

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