In “A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich” by Julian of Norwich and “The Book of Margery Kempe” by Margery Kempe, each author gives literary descriptions of her own holy visions. In each description of a vision or a revelation in the two works, each author vividly details the sequence of events she witnesses. Julian of Norwich's revelation comes while she is delirious with fever (Julian of Norwich, 356), and likewise Kempe's revelation comes while she is “out of her mind” (Kempe, 368). Each author's revelation seems to be primarily concerned with death and the suffering of bodily pain—Julian of Norwich envisions a wounded Christ, and Kempe envisions devils that torment her. The fact that these visions emphasize death and suffering— suffering both physical and psychological—is a direct result of how the historical circumstances of the era affected each author personally. Similarly, both Kempe's and Julian of Norwich's social status seem to be reflected in each author's respective visions. This is because the authors associate holiness—and subsequent salvation—with a given value that is most important to each of them. Kempe envisions God as a symbol of wealth because Kempe values wealth, while Julian of Norwich envisions God as a being of suffering because Julian of Norwich values suffering.
[...] The latter contrast, along with the ways in which it differs from Julian of Norwich's vision and the fact that Kempe is revived after a wealth-oriented vision, suggests that for Kempe God or Jesus is associated with richness in monetary terms. This implies that for Kempe, salvation is dependent upon one's wealth and social status. And this argument seems also to be supported both by the fact that Kempe describes herself as very fashionable at the time (Kempe, 369), and by the fact that after Kempe's recovery she immediately attempts to start her own business. [...]
[...] Julian of Norwich's vision of a suffering Christ also came to her at a time of her own suffering—she had been gravely ill and had been solitarily confined for several years as an anchoress. Not only did Julian of Norwich endure the psychological pain of isolation, but she desired to endure physical pain as well. Of her vision she writes, “Then came suddenly to my mind that I should desire the second wound of our Lord's gift and of his grace . [...]
[...] Such principles were constantly impressed on people of the period every day of their lives, and such principles were ingrained in everything many of them did, said, and thought, as the visions of both authors suggests. In addition, after the devastation of the Black Plague, the logical effect on the populace of England and on the authors in particular was an increased fear of death, a constant agonizing over death and how one might die. Such a mindset is evidenced in each author's vision, and both authors at times focus on images of the physical act of self- mutilation and suffering in general. [...]
[...] In addition, the visions are also similar in that each author's image of God prompts her own self-salvation (in Julian of Norwich's case) or attempted self-salvation (in Kempe's case). I write “attempted” self-salvation for Margery Kempe, for her visions were not accepted as divine by the public, but Julian of Norwich's were. The attempts at self-salvation are due in part to the historical circumstances surrounding each author. For instance, around the time these accounts were written, the Black Plague had just devastated England beginning in 1349 A.D., killing one-third to one-half of London's population within one year. [...]
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