Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich

Jennifer N. Brown, English and World Literatures, Marymount Manhattan College

This video introduces two women writers from Late Medieval England and the circumstances that inspired their works.



Primary Sources

The TEAMS text of The Book of Margery Kempe, edited by Lynn Staley. This edition, like all of the TEAMS editions, is extremely student friendly. It contains a glossary, a bibliography, and footnotes that explain the Middle English making it easy for a student to navigate as they learn the language.

The TEAMS text of The Shewings of Julian of Norwich, edited by Georgia Ronan Crampton. As with the Kempe edition, it is a student friendly edition of the text.

Useful Tools for Teaching and Research

For images and to teach some book history, the British Library has images online of Additional MS 33790, the “short text” of the Julian of Norwich’s Revelations; Stowe MS 42, the “long text” of Julian’s work; and Additional MS 61823, which has The Book of Margery Kempe.

A facing page facsimile of Margery Kempe’s book and its transcription are available here through the Kempe Project. This is great if you are teaching some paleography.

You can get a sense of medieval Norwich here through The Medieval Churches of Norwich Project, including the location of Julian’s church. The website has lots of useful links to images and maps.

The Middle English Dictionary, to not only look up Middle English words, but also see where else they appear in Middle English texts through the Compendium

The Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible, through which you can search a word in English or Latin, as well as having facing page translations of the two languages.

Discussion Questions

Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe are two women writing at the same time and more or less the same place (indeed, we know they met one another from an episode recounted in The Book of Margery Kempe). However, their styles and content are extremely different. How does Julian’s position as an anchoress and Margery’s as a wife, traveler, and layperson shape what they say and how they say it? What differences do you detect in the fact Julian wrote her text and Margery dictated hers?

In what ways do each of these texts challenge your views of what women did and said in medieval England? Are there ways in which the texts support what you already thought about medieval women?

Creative Exercise

We know so little about the encounter between Julian and Margery. How do you imagine it went? Can you construct a dialogue using their respective texts as a basis?

Further Reading


Brown, Jennifer N. “Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich,” Middle Ages for Educators, April 6, 2020. Accessed [date].