Assignments. Here are focused projects designed to familiarize students with the cultural and intellectual world of Margery Kempe.
Saints: Research the iconography of St. Margaret, St. Catherine, or Mary Magdalene, and read the Life or "vita" of the saint you have chosen. How does the iconography capture the narrative? What features are emphasized? What seems to be minimized or left out?
Town and Gown: Research the conflicts
between the burghers of Lynne and the religious authorities in Norwich.
For a specific and historically-based study, students could research Bishop
Despenser and his conflicts with Lynn, as well as his infamous role the
Self-commemoration: Research the methods available for the living to commission visible monuments of their lives in 14th and 14th century England·in donor images, tomb monuments, and monumental brasses. Find 5 examples and describe in detail. Images of Christ: How is Christ portrayed in images that Margery Kempe might have seen? Take a look at stained glass, alabasters, the Despenser retable from Norwich Cathedral. Consider in particular the "Christ of Pity" or Man of Sorrows as a model for Kempe·s speaking Christ.
Images of the Virgin: Study the representations of the Virgin·s motherhood, as represented in the Long Melford Alabaster and in the East Harling Windows. Relate this to stories of Christ·s infancy and childhood from the Meditations on the Life of Christ.
Parish space: Choose one "place" or part of the church where one or more of Margery Kempe·s annecdotes or visions take place (e.g., chancel, chapel, prior·s cloister, nave). Explore the connection: studying the parish plan, describe the kinds of images and ritual furnishings that she might have seen in such a space. Example: the Prior·s Chapel: In Chapters 56 and 57 Kempe recounts the important privilege of receiving communion in the Prior·s Chapel. How might a Prior·s Chapel have been furnished?
Trinity: What is the iconography of the Trinity in late medieval England? In alabasters? In the windows of Long Melford Church? (This project would be of particular interest to students studying Kempe and the Lollardy question, since the Trinity was an inflammatory image for the Lollards.)
Feasts: Study the Feast of Edward III in the Braunche Brass from St. Margaret·s Church in King·s Lynn. Describe the program in detail.
Clothing: Margery Kempe describes fashionable women·s clothing and headgear in detail in Chapter 2. Working with books of medieval costume and images of women from the East Anglia database at this site, locate images that depict what she describes.
Women and Reading: In images of
female saints in the database, where are women depicted reading? Holding