Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Painful transformations : a medical approach to experience, life cycle and text in British Library, Additional MS 61823, 'The Book of Margery Kempe'
Author: Williams, Laura Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 5992 3096
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2016
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Thesis embargoed until 30 Sep 2024
Access from Institution:
This thesis interprets The Book of Margery Kempe using a medieval medical approach. Through an interdisciplinary methodology based on a medical humanities framework, the thesis explores the significance of Kempe’s painful experiences through a broad survey of the human life cycle, as understood in medieval culture. In exploring the interplay of humoral theory, medical texts, religious instruction and life cycle taxonomies, it illustrates the porousness of medicine and religion in the Middle Ages and the symbiotic relationship between spiritual and corporeal health. In an age when the circulation of medical texts in the English vernacular was increasing, scholastic medicine not only infiltrated religious houses but also translated into lay praxis. Ideas about the moral and physical nature of the human body were thus inextricably linked, based on the popular tradition of Christus medicus. For this reason, the thesis argues that Margery Kempe’s pain, experience and controversial performances amongst her euen-cristen were interpreted in physiological and medical terms by her onlookers, as ‘pain-interpreters’. It also offers a new transcription of the recipe from B.L. Add. MS 61823, f.124v, and argues for its importance as a way of reading the text as an ‘illness narrative’ which depicts Margery Kempe’s spiritual journey from sickness to health. The chapters examine Kempe’s humoral constitution and predisposition to mystical perceptivity, her crying, her childbearing and married years, her menopausal middle age of surrogate reproductivity, and her elderly life stage. Medical texts such as the Trotula, the Sekenesse of Wymmen and the Liber Diversis Medicinis help to shed light on the ways in which medieval women’s bodies were understood. The thesis concludes that, via a ‘pain surrogacy’ hermeneutic, Kempe is brought closer to a knowledge of pain which is transformational, just as she transforms through the stages of the life cycle.
Supervisor: Jones, Eddie ; Rider, Catherine Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Medieval literature ; Medieval medicine ; Medieval women ; Margery Kempe ; Pain