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This paper explores the transition of Margery Kempe from a married laywoman to celibate mystic in The Book of Margery Kempe. Margery grapples with three very different and distinct challenges in the course of finding her spiritual niche in the patriarchal-dominated medieval Church. Margery must first deal with overcoming the Church's view that her body was a site of sinfulness and ontological monstrosity. She then chooses to seek the aid of her spiritual predecessors and discover where she fits into the tradition of female mystics. Finally, she must come to terms with the fact that due to the fact that she was functionally illiterate, she must filter her biography through the hand of a scribe. Throughout all of her experiences, she constantly seeks validation from the male clergy, her spiritual foremothers, and other members of society. However, to alleviate her fears and anxieties, Margery must go within herself, get her narrative written and carve her own space within the Catholic Church. By doing this, she effectively makes her place within the Church, the literary canon, and creates the first autobiography in the English language.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of English in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
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