Julian of Norwich Criticism - Essay

Robert H. Thouless (essay date 1924)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Some Characteristics of Julian's Thought" in The Lady Julian: A Psychological Study, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1924, pp. 51-65.

[Considering Julian's mystical experiences within a psychoanalytic framework, Thouless speculates on the psychic sources and meanings of her imagery.]

Before passing to a consideration of particular teachings embodied in the shewings of the Lady Julian, we may notice two characteristics of her thought which must strike at once her most casual reader. These are the rich content of imagery in her thinking, and her almost repellent insistence on the physical awfulness of the crucifixion. The former is a point of...

(The entire section is 3791 words.)

Evelyn Underhill (essay date 1925)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "English Medieval Mystics" in The Mystics of the Church, James Clarke & Co., 1925, 11. 110-32.

[In the excerpt that follows, Underhill emphasizes Julian's skill as a writer, noting especially her ability to fuse 'feeling and expression" and "soaring philosophy with homely simplicity."]

[Julian of Norwich] stands out with peculiar distinctness. As the first real English woman of letters, she has special interest for us: the more so when we consider the beauty of character, depth of thought, and poetic feeling which her one book displays. In her mingled homeliness and philosophic instinct, her passion for Nature, her profound devotion to the Holy Name, she...

(The entire section is 1509 words.)

David Knowles (essay date 1927)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Margery Kempe and Dame Julian" in The English Mystics, Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1927, pp. 128-49.

[In the following excerpt, Knowles examines Julian's work in order to characterize her qualities as a writer and as a mystic. In both capacities, he contends, her sincerity of feeling and natural style set her apart from her contemporaries.]

We have already in an earlier chapter considered a spiritual writing which had for its end the direction of ancresses. We havenow to examine the writings of two holy women who followed this life of solitude, Margery Kempe of Lynn and Dame Julian of Norwich; and though we have only a few pages to tell us of the first,...

(The entire section is 6494 words.)

Conrad Pepler (essay date 1958)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Mother Julian and Visions" in The English Religious Heritage, B. Herder Book Co., 1958, pp. 305-20.

[In the excerpt that follows, Pepler discusses the often controversial matter of whether Julian's visions were authentic spiritual events. He concludes that even her confessed moment of doubt does not detract from what he considers evidence that her revelations were divinely inspired.]

The Riwle written at the very end of the twelfth century for two or three sisters, anchoresses, was designed to train its readers in the more perfect life of contemplation. But it was treating of the first stages of the spiritual life, and, as we have seen, it only rises...

(The entire section is 5886 words.)

B. A. Windeatt (essay date 1977)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Julian of Norwich and Her Audience," The Review of English Studies, n.s. Vol. xxviii, No. 109, February 1977, pp. 1-17.

[In the following essay, Windeatt compares the early, shorter version of Revelations with the later and longer edition in order to demonstrate the sense of authority and control over her material and awareness of her audience that Julian developed during the years between the two works.]

It is an unusual opportunity, but in the manuscript situation of the Revelations of Julian of Norwich there is indeed a chance to see a mystic's literary revision of her account of her experience and of her interpretation of it.


(The entire section is 8739 words.)

Jennifer P. Heimmel (essay date 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Culmination of the Tradition in Julian and her Revelations" in "God Is Our Mother": Julian of Norwich and the Medieval Image of Christian Feminine Divinity, pp. 46-69, Institut fir Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universitat Salzburg, 1982, pp. 46-69.

[In the following excerpt, Heimmel credits Julian with being the first Christian writer to synthesize a cohesive image of "God the mother" from the suggestions of feminine divinity scattered throughout the Bible and other traditional sources.]

It was not until approximately 1393 that the medieval image of a Christian feminine divinity reached its culmination in the single work of an English anchoress and...

(The entire section is 7610 words.)

Ritamary Bradley (essay date 1984)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Julian of Norwich: Writer and Mystic" in An Introduction to Medieval Mystics of Europe, edited by Paul E. Szarmach, State University of New York Press, 1984, pp. 195-216.

[In the essay that follows, Bradley places Julian's writings within the context of the traditions of Christian mysticism and the canon of English literature.]

Julian of Norwich is the first known woman of letters in English literature, and one is hard-put to find prose superior to hers in the Middle English period. She belongs, by right, to the mainstream of studies in literature and culture. This survey article undertakes to show that Julian deserves to be rated as a distinguished prose...

(The entire section is 9684 words.)

Kenneth Leech (essay date 1985)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Contemplative and Radical: Julian Meets John Ball" in Julian: Woman of Our Day, edited by Robert Llewelyn, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1985, pp. 89-101.

[In the following essay Leech speculates on Julian's attitude toward the social upheaval of her day. He imagines her as the sympathetic supporter of peasants protesting the conditions of their lives.]

In 1973 a group of people gathered in Norwich, England, to celebrate the 600th anniversary of Julian's Revelations and to consider her relevance to the spiritual needs of the twentieth century. At one point in the discussions, a devout evangelical psychiatrist was reflecting on the pastoral value of the...

(The entire section is 4395 words.)

Joan M. Nuth (essay date 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Work of Grace" in Wisdom's Daughter: The Theology of Julian of Norwich, Crossroad, 1991, pp. 148-69.

[In the following excerpt, Nuth delineates Julian's concept of grace, which she says finds its coherence in Julian's unfailing emphasis on divine love for humanity.]

Although the Spirit of God is active with the whole trinity in the works of nature and mercy already described, the particular work attributed to the Spirit by Julian is eschatological fulfillment, which she calls the work of grace:

Grace works with mercy, and especially in two properties, … which working belongs to the third person, the Holy Spirit. He...

(The entire section is 10877 words.)

Denise Nowakowski Baker (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Parable of the Lord and Servant and the Doctrine of Original Sin" in Julian of Norwich's "Showings": From Vision to Book, Princeton University Press, 1994, pp. 83-106.

[In the excerpt that follows, Baker examines several of Julian's revelations in detail, focusing on the vision that derived from the biblical parable of the Lord and the Servant. The critic suggests that Julian's interpretation of this vision diverges from traditional emphasis on sin and punishment, and instead uses the story to demonstrate forgiveness and redemption.]

One of the most striking features of Julian of Norwich's solution to the problem of evil is her refusal to attribute wrath...

(The entire section is 11325 words.)

Grace M. Jantzen (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "'Cry out and write': Hysticism and the Struggle for Authority" in Power, Gender, and Christian Mysticism, Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 157-92.

[In the following excerpt, Jantzen charts the "reintegration" of body and spirit performed in Julian's revelationsa feature that Jantzen claims breaks with Christian tradition and arises from Julian's experiences as a woman.]

… As the Middle Ages waned, increasing numbers of women learned to read and write, in the vernacular if not in Latin. How Julian of Norwich was educated it is impossible to say. She was born in 1342, probably somewhere in East Anglia or the Midlands. Virtually everything that...

(The entire section is 4098 words.)

Maria R. Lichtmann (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "'God fulfylled my bodye': Body, Self, and God in Julian of Norwich" in Gender and Text in the Later Middle Ages, edited by Jane Chance, University Press of Florida, 1990, pp. 263-78.

[In the following essay, Lichtmann discerns in Julian's writings radical notions of sensuality and the feminine in divinity; she concludes that Julian "offers us … a theology of the body."]

Sometime after she received a series of sixteen "showings" or revelations during the course of a nearly fatal illness, Julian of Norwich became an anchoress, walling herself up in a cell attached to a church in Norwich, England. In such a state of isolation, Julian would seem an odd choice...

(The entire section is 7241 words.)