Read It and Weep: Affective and Literate Engagement in Richard Rolle’s Meditations and The Book of Margery Kempe

  • Jessica Barr
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Much medieval devotional and visionary literature is concerned with directing its audience’s meditative practices toward gaining a deeper understanding of Christ’s suffering and salvation history as a whole. Some such texts, however, make use of the text’s materiality—as book and as language—to generate knowledge of God. This chapter argues that Rolle’s Meditations and The Book of Margery Kempe strove to bring their readers to deeper knowledge of God through the reading experience itself. Rolle employs a poetics of presence that both models and generates an affective response, whereas Kempe’s references to books model a literate response for her readers. Both works thus present the text in itself as a means of producing experience. The centrality of the text’s materiality in these reading practices—not only as a vehicle for devotion but as an object that manifests devotion in its own right—indicates the importance of the act of reading in emerging spiritual praxes, which is particularly significant in an era of growing vernacular textual production and broader access to works of spiritual guidance.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica Barr
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Massachusetts-AmherstAmherstUSA

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