Margery Kempe’s Spiritual Medicine
Title Details

253 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

9 b/w illus.

Imprint: D.S.Brewer

Margery Kempe's Spiritual Medicine

Suffering, Transformation and the Life-Course

by Laura Kalas

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
  • Reviews
The Book of Margery Kempe set in the context of medieval medical discourse.

Margery Kempe's various illnesses, mental, spiritual and physical, are a recurring theme in her Book. This volume, the first full-length interdisciplinary study from a medical humanities perspective, offers a medicalized reading of Kempe's spirituality in the context of the ubiquitous medieval notion of Christ the Physician, and thus a new way of interpreting the Book itself: as a narrative of Kempe's own engagement with the medical paradigms of which she has previously been a passive subject.
Focusing on the interactions of medicine, mysticism and reproduction as a feminist project, the author explores the ontology of female flesh; the productive use of pain, suffering and sickness; and the ethics of a maternal theology based on the melancholic and surrogate activities that underlie Kempe's experience. Structured broadly via a traverse through the life course, the book shows how Kempe's response to suffering is illuminated by the medieval medical discourse by which she is contemporaneously read, and by which she engineers her own construction and understanding of self. It also explores Kempe's persistent attendance to her mystical body and refusal to compromise her instinct to authentically show how she feels.
Introduction
1. Bleeding the Tears of Melancholia
2. 'Þe mukke' of Marriage and the Sexual Paradox
3. Lost Blood of the Middle Age: Surrogacy and Fecundity
4. Margery Medica: The Healing Value of Pain Surrogacy
5. The Passion of Death Surrogacy
6. Senescent Reproduction: Writing Anamnestic Pain
Afterword / Afterlife
Select Bibliography
Glossary of Medical Terms

LAURA KALAS is a Lecturer in Medieval Literature at Swansea University.

"Margery Kempe's Spiritual Medicine offers a multitude of new starting points for considering the Book of Margery Kempe. Readers will appreciate the monograph's dynamic movement across texts and contexts and its generous engagement with Kempe as a self-defining woman, mystic, and author. Kalas succeeds in showing how Kempe's distinctively feminine embodiment of suffering could assume historically specific meanings and authority." SPECULUM
"This volume provides an illuminative and thoughtful exploration of the way medicalized understandings of female corporeality shaped Kempe's mystical experience. It not only offers a number of exciting, fresh interpretations of Kempe's Book, but also testifies to the multiplicity of ways that medical humanities methodologies can complicate and enrich our understanding of literary text" STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER
"The author's close reading of Kempe's life cycle, her Book, and numerous primary documents relating to medicine and health make for a learned and convincing study. This book will be valuable not only to Kempe scholars but also to students and researchers interested in the critical overlap between spirituality, medicine, and the female body in the Middle Ages and beyond. Highly recommended." CHOICE
"Laura Kalas's new study of Margery Kempe within the context of medieval medical thought and practice deserves a place in the pantheon of other transformative studies of Kempe's Book. ...[T]his study establishes important cultural and theoretical grounds for our reading of Kempe's suffering, as well as contributing to the growing field of medical humanities." THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW
"Laura Kalas has set the benchmark in this fine piece of work and has set it high." Luke Penkett, The Julian Centre, MAGISTRA
"Kalas's study makes an extremely important and highly engaging contribution to existing scholarship on The Book of Margery Kempe and to the field of medical humanities more generally." Journal of British Studies

Paperback

9781843846840

May 2023

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9781787446878

March 2020

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9781843845546

March 2020

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Title Details

253 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

9 b/w illus.

Imprint: D.S.Brewer