Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-9q27g Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-25T05:03:38.246Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Chapter 13 - Tears, Mediation, and Literary Entanglement

The Writings of Medieval Visionary Women

from IV - Genre and Gender

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2023

Corinne Saunders
Durham University
Diane Watt
University of Surrey
Get access


Liz Herbert McAvoyߣs essay on women visionaries highlights the importance of community in relation to womenߣs literary culture, in particular textual community. McAvoy adopts Karen Baradߣs terminology of dynamic intra-actions to describe the lives and writings of visionaries in the European high and later Middle Ages, taking as her starting point the complex and manifold spiritual female entanglements across space and time that are described in The Book of Margery Kempe. McAvoy traces such intra-actions back through Mechthild of Hackeborn and the nuns of Helfta in the thirteenth century to Hildegard of Bingen in the eleventh, and forwards to the later fourteenth century and Julian of Norwich. McAvoy also identifies the influence of Mechthild on A Revelation of Purgatory, written in the early fifteenth century by an anchoress of Winchester, and on the writings of Birgitta of Sweden, with which Kempe was familiar. McAvoy concludes that these interwoven spiritual connections between women are mirrored in knotted patterns of manuscript patronage and ownership.

Women and Medieval Literary Culture
From the Early Middle Ages to the Fifteenth Century
, pp. 269 - 284
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Further Reading

Cré, Marleen (2006). Vernacular Mysticism in the Charterhouse: A Study of London, British Library, MS Additional 37790, Turnhout: Brepols.Google Scholar
Gillespie, Vincent (2008). ‘[S]he do the police in different voices’: Pastiche, Ventriloquism and Parody in Julian of Norwich’. In A Companion to Julian of Norwich, ed. McAvoy, Liz Herbert. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 192207.Google Scholar
Harrison, Anna (2008). ‘Oh! What Treasure is in This Book?’ Writing, Reading, and Community at the Monastery of Helfta. Viator 35.1, 75106.Google Scholar
Magnani, Roberta, and McAvoy, Liz Herbert (2020). What is a Woman: Enclosure and Female Piety in Chaucer’s ‘The Knight’s Tale’. Studies in the Age of Chaucer 42, 311–24.Google Scholar
McAvoy, Liz Herbert (2021). The Enclosed Garden and the Medieval Religious Imaginary, Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.Google Scholar
McAvoy, Liz Herbert (2017). Introduction. In A Revelation of Purgatory, ed. and trans. Herbert McAvoy, Liz. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.Google Scholar
McAvoy, Liz Herbert, and Yoshikawa, Naoë Kukita (2021). Mechthild of Hackeborn and Margery Kempe: An Intertextual Conversation. Spicilegium 5, 320.Google Scholar
Miles, Laura Saetveit (2019). Queer Touch Between Holy Women: Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Birgitta of Sweden, and the Visitation. In Touching, Devotional Practices, and Visionary Experience in the Late Middle Ages, ed. Carillo-Rangel, David, Nieto-Isabel, Delfi I., and Acosta-Gardia, Pablo. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 203–35.Google Scholar
Newman, Barbara (2018). The Seven-Storey Mountain: Mechthild of Hackeborn and Dante’s Matelda. Dante Studies 136, 6292.Google Scholar
Paton, Kimberley Christine and Hawley, John Stratton, eds. (2005). Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Schirmer, Elizabeth (2005). Reading Lessons at Syon Abbey: The Myroure of Oure Ladye and the Mandates of Vernacular Authority. In Voices in Dialogue: Reading Women in the Middle Ages, ed. Olson, Linda and Kirby-Fulton, Kathryn. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 345–76.Google Scholar
Voaden, Rosalynn (1999). God’s Words, Women’s Voices: The Discernment of Spirits in the Writing of Late Medieval Holy Women Visionaries, University of York: York Medieval Press.Google Scholar
Wiethaus, Ulrike, ed. (1993). Maps of Flesh and Light: The Religious Experience of Medieval Women Mystics, Ithaca, NY: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats