Margery's Reading Communities: Literacy and Devotion in The Book of Margery Kempe
AbstractThis paper examines Margery's interaction with literate culture in The Book of Margery Kempe. It argues that Margery shows an awareness of the way that Christian knowledge is contained within texts and disseminated to wider audiences. Margery presents herself as a saintly figure, a holy woman with clerical authorization and direct spiritual access to God and Jesus. Through an explanation of key scenes involving Margery's literacy, this paper shows how literacy in late medieval England was a process of negotiation, meaning it was not merely the skill of reading from a written page but a collaborative process. Literacy brings Margery into closer relationship with clerics and has multiple dimensions. Thus Margery shows herself in varying authorial roles, being that of a book owner, an author of her own text, a contemplative listener to a reading priest, and the subject of scorn during a friar's sermon. These shifting roles demonstrate how Margery set herself as the center of textual production.