Julian of Norwich, a literary midwifery

Moony images

When Julian of Norwich describes her mystical experiences and her visions in her Revelation of Love, she describes them in three parts, thus:

‘That is to sey, be bodily sight and by word formyd in my understonding and be gostly sight. But the gostly sight I cannot ne may not show it as hopinly ne as fully as I woulde’

There are sixteen ‘Shewings’ – ‘Showings’, a term that midwives and those experienced in the process of birthing would recognise as the first indications of imminent birth.

Julian Of Norwich was an anchoress, she went through a process and experience of visionary state which she then communicated in a non-theological manner. The visions emanated from her experiences in spiritual writing and in an illness that threatened her life. The writing is astounding in descriptive terms, this is how a vision began:

‘and the bodily sight stinted and the gostly sight dwellid in mine understonding. and I desired as I durst to see more’.

The introductory to the folio editions and mss of Julian of Norwich is in print by The Exeter University Press and introduced by Marion Glasscoe.  Glasscoe compares the writing of Julian of Norwich to the experiences of Isaac Luria ( a 16th Century Kabbalist) in trying to vocalise his experience. Indeed, Simone Weil and others like Paul Celan have hit upon the same type of writing, although discussion on this topic of mysticism is severely limited and often in the essays accompanying their major works. Its an area of interest that I have threaded throughout this blog in pieces about Weil, Karlen, Julian, Celan, and Marguerite of Porete (who was unfortunately murdered during the Inquisition for refusing to disclaim her works).

Someone entered ‘Penelopiad Rubbish‘  into the search engine and ended up on the site! I suggest reading the ‘Suicide Angel’ by Margaret Atwood before embarking on her lively engagement with mythos, the stringing up of the abused maids might be a little heavy on the palate as an introductory to Atwood and her waddling Penelope, whose shrewish hatred of Helen and thirst for blood might be off-putting to the faint-hearted.

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